The local water source for Palomas is an aquifer that runs from north of Columbus, NM south through Palomas to the town of Ascension which is south of Palomas in Mexico. The water from this aquifer has high levels of arsenic and fluoride. It’s also marked by a bad taste and smell. Arsenic causes several serious health risks including cancer, weak bones and circulation problems. Fluoride in excessive amounts will remove the enamel from teeth.
Columbus, NM has installed a reverse osmosis system that brings the arsenic/fluoride levels to acceptable US standards and delivers the water to homes. Palomas has reverse osmosis systems to filter the water also, but that filtered water is only available at three water faucets in town. Residents can purchase safe drinking water at a cost of one peso per gallon, but they must transport the water to their homes. Reverse osmosis systems are very expensive.
About ten years ago, researchers at New Mexico State University developed a filter that reduces the arsenic levels to comply with US standards, but not Mexican standards which are more stringent. The filter they developed can be built locally with common plumbing parts for about $20.
Border Partners has made and installed these low cost water filters at five schools and our community garden. Thus, students and teachers and our staff and volunteers can access safe drinking water. These filters will be monitored and replaced as needed.
In addition, Border Partners is working with a local science teacher/entrepreneur who hopes to manufacture and sell the filters to local people for their homes.