Final Post: Water Access in Chaguite, Nicaragua

My final model raises questions about reliability and its practical use. The large area covered by the model (all of Matagalpa) brings into question how specific it is to the very s mall community of Chaguite. My model also does not take into account the cleanliness of the groundwater zones it identifies. The groundwater zones that the model identifies may be contaminated, may not be drinkable or may not be available all year round.

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August Update

I have spent the majority of the past few weeks reflecting on the research I have done so far and considering how to move forward. My work is part of a larger on-campus group – MANOS. We rely on a method of research referred to as CBPR – community based participatory research. One of the core aspects of CBPR is creating an equal partnership with a community, with both sides (the community members in Chaguite and William and Mary MANOS students) participating equally in research and development projects. For my own research I was relying on the community’s collection of elevation or well depth data to satisfy our equal partnership [. However, because my final raster will cover an area much larger than the small community of Chaguite, I cannot use well data in my final raster as it would be almost impossible to collect or find accurate and reliable data for such a large area (especially considering the travel constraints caused by the political upheaval in Nicaragua right now). So, the question I am still pondering is how to involve the community in my research and whether our inability to access Nicaragua will affect the success of the final raster and the well implementation project that is the ultimate goal.
Besides exploring possible methods of involving the community, I have decided to clip my final raster to the shape of Matagalpa, a region in Nicaragua. I was originally intending to clip it Terrabona, however after reviewing similar models to the one I am creating, Matagalpa is more comparable in size than Terrabona (Terrabona is too small). I have also found high quality raster for soil and lithology types around the globe that can be downloaded straight to ArcGIS, so I will be able to use those in my final raster. Moving forward, I need to determine what weight each individual raster will have within my final raster. I also need to determine a scale for each individual raster (for example, which types of soil are best at retaining groundwater and which are worst). From there, I will calculate the final raster.

Mid-July Update

From my literature review I have been able to determine which factors are going to be most important in the groundwater potential of Chaguite. The majority of these determinations are based on a study done in the Theni District of India. The study was deemed highly successful in determining groundwater potential zones within the district and was done using minimal time, labor and money. The researchers found that slope and soil were most important in determining groundwater potential zones with drainage density and lineament density shortly after. Another study done in Iran tested 13 factors twice in 10 years to determine which factors had the greatest impact on the groundwater potential map and how groundwater potential zones change over time. The study found that qanat density (qanats are tunnels built underground to funnel water from the tops of hills to villages at the bottom) had the greatest impact on groundwater potential. Most studies I read did not include mechanism like wells or other water accessibility tools, but this study provides support for including current well depth and recharge data in my final raster.

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Water Access in Chaguite: Change of Plans

My original research plan for the summer was to collect GIS data in order to determine water sources within the community of Chaguite, Nicaragua so that my larger research group could use my research to plan where to build a well that is accessible to all members of the community. Unfortunately, after I had to cancel my trip to Chaguite after the protests in Nicaragua in May, I’ve had to adjust my research plan. Because I can’t be in country to continue collecting data, I’ve adjusted how I will go about locating and assessing sources of water. By using remote sensing combined with the baseline data I have on well water availability in Chaguite, I can create a model that will predict where groundwater will be available within the region without having immediate access to Chaguite.

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Using GIS to map water distribution in Chaguite, Nicaragua

The primary purpose of my research will be to use GIS to map water distribution within the community of Chaguite, Nicaragua. This will inform MANOS’s plan to build cisterns in areas with less readily accessible water sources. I will begin by working in the community members to collect both spatial and sociological data about well ownership, condition and quality. In doing so, I can trace which wells have the most water supplied to them and how clean the water is in order to determine which houses are most in need of cisterns. We can then use the outcome of my research to build a healthy water distribution system to benefit every member of the community equally.
I will begin by elaborating upon the data MANOS collected previously about the amount and quality of water in each well and cistern within the community. I will then speak to different members of the community to determine which households use each well. During these conversations I will find out details about how they treat their water and any water-borne illnesses that have arisen. I will then be able to determine which houses have the most convenient access to clean water and which houses are contracting illnesses because of an inadequate water supply. From here I will determine which houses are closest to water sources, the quality of those sources and which homes are facing challenges due to lack of access to clean water. This research will in turn allow the team to move forward with our plan to build household cisterns.