Griggs: Rotary Works For Clean Water And Sanitation On Lake Atitlán, Guatemala March 2017

Villa Tangara, Panajachel, Guatemala. Photo by David Griggs/



Foreign Correspondent

Los Alamos Daily Post


A friend recently told me that Rotary clubs in the US and Canada raise money, and in Central America the Rotary clubs spend it.


Since retiring, I have spent four winters in Guatemala. After seeing the wonderful programs that are supported down here by Rotary, I joined a club on Lake Atitlán. I have attended annual regional Project Fairs, first in Antigua, Guatemala, and subsequently in Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador. I have seen the excellent efforts being made in the areas of fighting disease, providing clean water, saving mothers and children, supporting education, growing local economies, and promoting peace.


Lake Atitlán, which Aldous Huxley suggested as the world’s most beautiful lakes, is threatened by all the usual environmental troubles that come with development. The principal goal of the Rotary E-Club Lake Atitlán is to work to improve the conditions that threaten the lake. Just as many issues have contributed to the problems in the lake, so the solutions will come from efforts in a number of different areas.


Tul Reforestation


One of the club’s local projects is Tul Reforestation. Tul is a reed-like native plant that aids in nutrient removal and water filtration. A few years ago, Lake Atitlán experienced an unusually fast increase in water levels that destroyed much of the tul forests. This dealt a severe blow to the lake’s ability to heal itself from the constant inflow of chemical fertilizers and raw sewage.


Rotary E-club Lake Atitlán and Rotaract Guatemala de la Asuncion participated in “a weekend of direct impact measures” in the ongoing efforts to save Lake Atitlán. Members participated in and helped fund the project, which was organized by Lake Atitlán Environmental Interests Group. This was done in conjunction with Sembremos Tul of San Marcos and the government agencies of CONAP and AMSCLAE.


By helping to reforest the tul along the shores of Lake Atitlán, we help to promote the lake’s ability to cope with environmental contaminants, help to boost the local economies through the handicrafts made by local tuleros, and raise awareness for the problems facing Lake Atitlán. The activities made national headlines in the Prensa Libre and National TV on Guatevision.


Other Projects


Other projects in which the club has been involved include:

  • A large capacity commercial filter was installed by Aguas del Pueblo at the San Lucas Tolimán Parroquial Hospital. The primary sponsor of the project was the Santa Clara CA Rotary Club.
  • The Pentair nano filter is a non-chlorine system that will supply clean water to the hospital and to the community of San Lucas Tolimán, a village with a population of 22,000. The life of filter is 10 years and the system is powered by solar panels with electricity backup if needed.
  • The Santa Clara CA Rotary Club is also installing a potable water projects near San Lucas Tolimán in Sanik-Ya,  Chitulul, Parroquial Colejio, and Quixaya.
  • Sanik-ya Potable Water Project: Water is pumped 2.5 km from San Lucas Tolimán to a newly constructed 150,000-liter tank. Purified to a very high quality using a Sunspring nano filter, the water then flows by gravity to the community that is downslope from the tank. People will pay for water on the amount consumed. This is the first water-metered system in rural Guatemala.
  • Donation of special chlorination pills of 90 percent chloro to the Municipal Water Committee of Agua Escondida, Department of Sololá. 

The Rotary grant process can be time consuming. Therefore, to try and meet the needs of small local projects, the Lake Atitlán Club works to promote various community projects. These are supervised either directly by the Club or by local NGO’s with Rotary oversight. If anyone is interested in projects to support, here are a few that already approved and ready to go, but that are as yet unfunded:

  • Water Treatment Plant Programs in San Bartolo and Santa Cruz;
  • Santiago Atitlán Organic Coffee Program;
  • Chacaya New Spring Water Program;
  • Nuevo Progreso Clean Water Project; and
  • Lake Atitlán Waterless Toilet Project. 

Two of the local NGO’s with whom we work closely are:


Mayan Families

Mayan Families works to educate, feed, shelter, and heal the impoverished populations of Lake Atitlán. They strive to facilitate enduring, sustainable programs that promote community development. They aim to stimulate long-term progress through school sponsorships, health initiatives, vocational training, and microfinance.


Opal House Guatemala Project

Opal House is a refuge for the impoverished children of Guatemala. Located high in the mountains of Lake Atitlan is a 59-acre farm where peace and love exist. The guests will receive physical, spiritual, and educational nourishment. The children are served in their native culture, customs, and language.  Medical and surgical services are provided to the local community. Opal House has received Interact, Rotaract and Rotary Club volunteers.

Discover How You Can Help! There is a year round need for Volunteers! All Volunteers stay on the Opal House farm, a safe refuge in the Guatemalan highlands above …

Join us for Lunch

The Rotary E-Club Lake Atitlán meets for lunch at 1 p.m. Thursdays at the Hotel Cacique Inn in Panajachel, Guatemala. Through “Go To Meeting”, Rotarians can participate online in the meetings from anywhere in the world. Go to the website at and follow the instructions.