Village landscape; Village landscape;

WaSH in Chiché, Guatemala

A new framework for vulnerable communities in the dry corridor of the Guatemalan Highlands

As part of Arup’s Global Challenge initiative, we are teaming up with Engineer’s Without Borders USA and local Guatemalan partners, to provide safely managed potable water infrastructure and implement proper sanitation and hygiene practices to San Francisco, a community located within the municipality of Chiché in the dry corridor of the Guatemalan Highlands.

The ultimate goal is to replicate the achievements of this water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH) program throughout the municipality. 

The project has four main components:

  • Develop safely managed potable water infrastructure

  • Implement household sanitation services through both a market-based approach and build-it-yourself latrine construction training for the poorest community members.

  • Provide hygiene training in local schools and health centers.

  • Support Chiché’s municipal government program to manage, operate and maintain the rural water systems.

Project Summary

15% of people have access to potable water

10%of people use safe sanitation services

57%of children under five are chronically malnourished

This project is vital to the people. It is vital for life of our young children, teenagers and adults. Without water we cannot live. ” Angel Ren Guarcas Mayor of Chiché

Challenges within the community

Rural water systems in Guatemala are often fractured, contaminated, or hard to access. Many households and communities must band together to source potable water from inaccessible springs or use homemade rainwater collection systems during the rainy seasons. Population growth has outpaced the number of available spring sources and climate change appears to be affecting the reliability of traditional water sources. Despite their best efforts, almost all the residents of San Francisco do not have the expertise and resources available to manage their systems in a manner that ensures reliable delivery of safe water. This project will provide a sustainable alternative for the delivery of safe water to every house in this community.

Similarly, the provision of sanitation services has been challenging in Guatemala. On their own, many communities do not adopt the use of improved latrines or hygiene habits. Traditional charitable projects involving the donation of latrines have had discouragingly low adoption rates. The market-based and self-constructed approach taken in this project has been shown in several adjoining municipalities to be much more successful in promoting changes in habits and encouraging the adoption of safely managed sanitation practices.

President of the local water committee, Domingo, engages with the local community members. President of the local water committee, Domingo, engages with the local community members.
President of the local water committee, Domingo, engages with the local community members. The community was excited for EWB and Arup to be there on the assessment trip

Our commitment to the community

In order to develop the municipal government’s capacity to support rural water systems and plan for future development, two major components will be provided:

  1. A comprehensive assessment and inventory of rural water sources and infrastructure within the municipality. 

  2. Support and training for municipal staff to increase their cooperation between the municipal government and local water committees

Implement a framework to be replicated

In addition to the roughly 750 immediate project beneficiaries in San Francisco, the work of building municipal capacity will have the potential to benefit many other communities within the municipality of Chiché who lack access to safely managed drinking water and sanitation services. This project will implement a novel framework built on proven components for providing safely managed drinking water and sanitation services, in accordance with the UN Sustainable Development Goals 6.1 (provide safe and affordable drinking water) and 6.2 (end open defecation and provide access to safe sanitation and hygiene). This framework will serve as a model for future projects with other communities and will help the municipality to pursue the targets defined in SDG’s 6.1 and 6.2 well into the future.

A typical cistern is filled using rain water runoff from the roof of the house

Measuring the impacts of safer water and sanitation

Following the implementation of the four main project components, data will be gathered to measure the effects of new potable water infrastructure, sanitation and hygiene practices on the health and well-being of the community. It is our intent to share our findings and lessons learned for future WaSH projects.


"Having improved access to sanitation improves people’s health and you can see how important that is to these people.” Steve Crowe, Guatemala Country Director, Engineers Without Borders - USA 

Arup Global Challenge

Launched in 2017, the Arup Global Challenge allows Arup people to use their skills and expertise to benefit vulnerable and marginalized communities by designing and delivering transformative projects collaboratively with charitable organisations, NGOs, public bodies and other partners. The programme forms part of our firm’s broader Community Engagement work and commitment to supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

We have focused on the SDGs where we can deliver the greatest positive impact, based on our skills and experience. Arup has committed £5 million over the period 2017 – 2022 to Global Challenge.

 Find out more about Community Engagement.