Doña Reina remembers the water that ran from the faucet at her home in rural Honduras. It was yellowish, opaque, she said in Spanish, and “y sucia,” which means dirty. Then, in 2008, her small village of Tamara received its first water treatment plant, a gravity-fed system made of locally sourced materials that was designed by engineering students in the U.S. Today, Reina’s water is clean enough to drink from the tap.
The students were part of a Cornell University program called AguaClara, which focuses on treating water affordably in infrastructure-poor communities, and without using electricity. Since 2005, AguaClara, which means clear water, has helped complete 14 plants in partnership with Hondurans who planned and built the structures. Now locals own and operate these plants, which serve about 65,000 people.