Access to safe drinking water is a widespread problem throughout most of Guatemala. According to figures from the United Nations Development Program, roughly a quarter of Guatemalans still lack this basic necessity. This figure becomes even more dramatic in rural areas, where it is actually closer to 50 percent. The lack of potable water in turn leads to many illnesses, including intestinal parasites and amoebic dysentery, among others. Although most cities have sewer systems, wastewater treatment is virtually nonexistent with raw sewage often flowing into rivers, lakes, and oceans. Adding to Guatemala’s water woes is pollution from petroleum-based fertilizers used in commercial coffee, banana, and sugar plantations, which openly dump wastewater into nearby rivers and streams.
© Al Argueta from Moon Guatemala, 3rd Edition. Photos © Al Argueta www.alargueta.com