Tapping Mountain Water Springs for Timor-Leste Communities

Timor-Leste, sometimes called East Timor, became independent from Indonesia in 2002 after over thirty years of tension. The country is in a period of transition and rebuilding, and much of the country still lacks vital infrastructure. Access to drinking water is a long-term challenge for the new country, with over 30% of the population unable to reach a clean source of water. Compounding that problem, only 40% have access to proper toilet facilities.

WaterAid is an Australian water charity that has been working in Timor-Leste for over 15 years. Their newest project is an effort to increase water access in rural areas. In the two communities WaterAid has identified, the men spend their time working, leaving women and children to bear the burden of collecting clean water for the family. They can face challenging safety risks on the way to get water and it takes a significant amount of time, which cuts into education opportunities or further income generation for families.

WaterAid plans to change that. Their Reece Grant will be used to fund the entire process of freshwater generation. First, they’ll tap existing mountain streams with a gravity-fed system that brings water to new tanks located in the towns. They’ll install public taps and water level monitors that let the communities keep an eye on how much water is available.

“By gaining access to safe water close to their homes, the children in the community can spend more time in school.”

Access, however, is just the start. WaterAid are implementing a Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach, which means they’re committed to empowering the community to take ownership of and be responsible for the facilities. They run sanitation promotion sessions that explain the benefits of handwashing, reducing the risks of harmful diseases like cholera. WaterAid’s Federico Marcon explains, “these local partnerships really transform our initiatives, making the community the key players and implementers of the project.” This will not only ensure short-term access, but lift the general health and wellbeing of the community for the future.

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