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Indigenous Colombian Community Looks to the Sky to Create Unprecedented Water Access

March 6, 2020

Zero Mass Water and Conservation International come together to provide Bahía Hondita, La Guajira with innovative technology to combat water scarcity challenges

March 6 Ribbon-Cutting Event Celebrated Community’s Commitment to Conservation

ZMW Colombia

(Photo: Daniel Uribe)

BAHíA HONDITA, COLOMBIA (March 6, 2020) – On the tip of the La Guajira peninsula in Colombia, a community once deemed too remote for many water solutions has created their own supply from thin air. The small community of Bahía Hondita now has clean drinking water, thanks to the installation of SOURCE Hydropanels provided by a partnership between Conservation International and Zero Mass Water, a renewable water company based in Arizona.

With support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Colombia, an event unveiling the Hydropanel array and celebrating the community’s commitment to conservation was held today, March 6, at the community center in Bahía Hondita. Attendees included community members; Maria Juliana Ruiz Sandoval, First Lady Republic of Colombia; Ricardo Lozano, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, Colombia; Cody Friesen, CEO of Zero Mass Water; Sebastian Troëng, Executive Vice President, Conservation International; and Fabio Arjona, Vice President, Conservation International-Colombia.

Bahía Hondita is a small bay bordering the Caribbean located in the northeast of the Guajira Peninsula, Colombia, inhabited by a community of nearly 500 Wayuu indigenous people. Despite its proximity to sea water, much of the peninsula is arid and dry. As a result, only 4% of the rural population has access to potable water. The installation of 149 of Zero Mass Water’s SOURCE Hydropanels creates up to 22,000 liters of clean, renewable drinking water each month and is designed to fully meet the drinking water needs of the Bahía Hondita community members.

The project builds on an existing partnership between Conservation International – Colombia and the community that began in 2009, with the support of Cerrejón and Corpoguajira, aimed at boosting the populations of the critically endangered Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) who nest along the shores of the Guajira Peninsula near Bahía Hondita.  

“Hundreds of indigenous people call Bahía Hondita home and we have been working closely with the community to understand their unique challenges and how we can help solve them. The arid, dry landscape means people have traditionally relied on ground water with dangerously high levels of saline that is unsafe to drink on a regular basis,” said Jennifer Morris, President of Conservation International. “Access to safe drinking water is of utmost importance and we’re pleased to expand our partnership with Zero Mass Water, an organization that not only shares our values, but also brings innovative technology to the table to help us solve pressing global challenges.”

“The community of Bahía Hondita is an outstanding example of the environmental commitment in the region and these Hydropanels are an important next step in their conservation journey,” said Maria Claudia Diazgranados, Oceans program director from Conservation International-Colombia. “Accessible, abundant, clean drinking water means improved livelihoods and health, and of course, more time — time and energy that the Wayuu can now use to focus on conservation and living sustainable, abundant lives.” 

“Next to our house, they are putting up some Hydropanels, now we are going to have drinking water here, we won't have to walk 2 and 3 hours to look for it,” said community member Maily Arends Gouriyu. 

The SOURCE Hydropanels, funded by a Lemelson-MIT grant awarded to Zero Mass Water CEO Cody Friesen, serve as an innovative and environmentally-friendly solution for communities that ultimately supports improved health and quality of life. Traditionally, it was common practice for people to walk six hours to access water safe for human consumption. Now, the Hydropanels produce safe drinking water for each person in the community.

“Quality drinking water and health go hand-in-hand, and today a growing number of people around the globe face growing scarcity of this vital resource. A fundamental human right is access to safe drinking water and our mission is to ensure that right both through technology, and through partnerships with communities and groups like Conservation International,” said Cody Friesen, CEO of Zero Mass Water, “This project with Conservation International and the Wayuu community in Bahía Hondita, solves the longstanding challenge of drinking brackish water, and replaces that with wonderfully high-quality drinking water produced by SOURCE Hydropanels. We see this as just the beginning of our work with indigenous and other remote communities in Colombia, and around the globe, acting on our vision to provide renewable water and an equitable future for all people.”

About Conservation International

Conservation International works to protect the critical benefits that nature provides to people. Through science, partnerships and fieldwork, Conservation International is driving innovation and investments in nature-based solutions to the climate crisis, supporting protections for critical habitats, and fostering economic development that is grounded in the conservation of nature.  We work in 30 countries around the world, empowering societies at all levels to create a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable planet. Follow Conservation International's work on Conservation NewsFacebookTwitter, Instagram and YouTube.

About Zero Mass Water

Zero Mass Water's mission is to make drinking water an unlimited resource. SOURCE is a Hydropanel that creates drinking water simply from sunlight and air - made possible by the combination of thermodynamics, materials science and controls technology. Zero Mass Water puts the power of safe, high-quality water production into the hands of every person in nearly every climate and corner of the world. Headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, Zero Mass Water operates all over the globe.

For more information, visit zeromasswater.com or follow Zero Mass Water on Twitter @zeromasswater.