Global Water Alliance (GWA) allies with Engineers Without Borders Philadelphia Professional Chapter (EWB-PhillyPro) to Bring Drinking Water to 4000 in Guatemala!

by Debbie Heuckeroth

Panoramic view of existing well location

Do you remember enjoying a camping trip without running water on a summer vacation? Do you remember suffering a plumber’s water shutoff to repair your faucet at home? Whether as a welcome challenge or a temporary inconvenience, going without running water for even a short time is a memorable experience for those of us lucky enough to have clean water at the tap every day.

Access to water and sanitation are recognized by the United Nations as human rights, reflecting the fundamental nature of these basics in every person’s life. Lack of access to safe, sufficient and affordable water, sanitation and hygiene facilities has a devastating effect on the health, dignity and prosperity of billions of people, and has significant consequences for the realization of other human rights. – UN Water

GWA has accomplished much in 2021, not the least of which is to partner with EWB-PhillyPro to bring drinking water to approximately 4000 people in the Lagunas Cuaches community located in the San Juan Ostuncalco municipality, in the Quetzaltenango department of Guatemala. GWA reviewed this EWB project according to GWA’s rigorous evaluation standards designed to ensure the sustainability of projects, considering funding sources, community engagement, including women, environmental and other relevant factors. GWA provided some of the EWB-PhillyPro funding for the project, with the majority of funding coming from the community, municipality and in-country donations. As the project moves into implementation and monitoring phases GWA will continue to fundraise with EWB-PhillyPro and stay engaged, including providing assistance in both technical and community education and sustainability aspects. 

EWB-USA’s Guatemala office is assisting with coordination of the project work on the ground, enabling the design and construction of tanks, pumps, water treatment and piping to convey the water from a well to the distribution network. 

The community constructed the well themselves; however it is not yet providing any water to most of the community of approximately 800 households. Once construction is complete, the community will oversee the system maintenance after working with EWB-PhillyPro on establishing appropriate guidelines. EWB’s Planning, Monitoring, Evaluating & Learning (PMEL) tools will be used to provide a feedback system to promote learning and improve effectiveness.

The result?  The community will enjoy quality drinking water free of waterborne diseases. They will also have potable water for hygiene and cleaning purposes, which have become even more critical due to COVID-19. 

We here at GWA look forward to helping EWB-PhillyPro and the community of Lagunas Cuaches achieve their goal of providing clean running water for their community — a noteworthy and memorable goal.

Map of the area in Guatemala


Debbie Heuckeroth is a licensed professional engineer at Johnson & Johnson (J&J) Consumer Health in Fort Washington where she serves as the Environmental Health & Safety manager.  Debbie earned an MS in Civil Engineering (Environmental) from Carnegie-Mellon University and is a member of the Philadelphia Professional Chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB-USA). She has presented on global water, wastewater, waste and EHS engagement topics at conferences for EWB-USA, UN Association, ORCHSE, EHSICC, NAEM and as a guest lecturer at University of Pennsylvania.  She is on the Board of GWA.