A watershed is an area of land that collects water or snow runoff into a body of water like a river, lake, or stream. Watersheds provide the clean water that we drink, use to take a shower, wash our dishes and clothes with, and all of the other uses we have for water every day. So if watersheds are so important, who protects them?
For the people of San Rafael del Norte, Nicaragua, this question has a clear answer. Despite the government’s neglect of the beautiful Cascadas Verdes, a waterfall hidden deep within the tropics of rural Nicaragua, Don Alejandro Mairena has made it his life’s work to ensure the safety of the only source of clean drinking water for his community.
We heard the story of Don Alejandro Mairena after our partners, Water for People, visited San Rafael del Norte, the site of a clean water project funded by Amsterdam Coffee Festival 2016. As a farmer and lover of nature, Don Alejandro spent the last 30 years living and working on the land surrounding what he describes as his “sacred spot.” His days revolve around water, and the people of San Rafael del Norte are forever grateful for his efforts to keep their water clean. Today, the water of Cascadas Verdes flows through a gravity system into the homes, schools, and clinics of San Rafael del Norte.
While many of us do not worry whether the water we drink will make us sick or whether our pipes will stop running, we know now, more than ever, that our treatment of natural resources impacts global wellbeing. Half of the world’s most important rivers are rapidly depleting and being contaminated with pollution because we have come to take our water sources for granted. While water may feel like an unlimited resource, the continued exhaustion of our watersheds will result in worldwide water shortages within 10 years. Without someone like Don Alejandro to protect our watersheds, it is our responsibility to follow his example and ensure that our water stays clean for years to come.
If you'd like to find out how you can protect your local watershed, then check out our top 10 tips for saving water.