Caserio Panhux, a very small community of about 350 people, is located in central Guatemala. Many members of the community are indigenous Pokomchi. The community is one of many in the municipality, San Cristobal Verapaz, and is located 17 kilometers from the town center, an hour and a half by public transportation. This community does not have access to potable water and the women have to travel very far to existing water sources.

Water is not easily accessible; to improve the quality of life for the residents of Caserio Panhux, rainwater harvesting systems are being implemented in the community. This system ensures that clean water can be used all year round for essential daily tasks such as cooking, consumption, and hygiene so as to reduce the risk of waterborne diseases.

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The Design

Rainwater harvesting systems collect rain that falls on the roof of a home and store it for later use. The
systems are designed to supply a family with enough water for drinking and cooking year round.
There are four main components of an EWB-USA WPI rainwater harvesting system: gutters,
first flush, water storage tanks, overflow, and concrete bases. The components and
subcomponents are explained in detail in the next section and are summarized below. Figure 3
and Figure 4 respectively show computer-generated and hand-drawn schematics of the general
rainwater harvesting system.


The Project

In March of 2017, during NC State’s spring break, seven students and one international development mentor from EWB-USA traveled to Guatemala for the first face-to-face contact with the community. They conducted assessments of the community’s current water supply and storage, and the main road leading into the community. The team aimed to find the optimal location for the water catchment system where it will collect an adequate supply of water for the community and be protected from possible contaminants. Measurements were taken so the team can decide on the placement of an updated storage tank, and eventually produce digital renderings of the project to show the community before the implementation trip. Lastly, the team assessed the condition of the main road with intent to either widen or otherwise improve the state of the road and ease travel within the community.Working in conjunction with our local partner NGO, the Centro Comunitario Educativo Pokomchi (CeCEP), to provide the community with water catchment systems will bring both tangible and intangible benefits to the residents. This water collection system will improve the quality and quantity of potable water throughout the duration of the year. Implementation of this system will also familiarize students with reproducible technology that can be implemented and improved in their homes and other regions.To strengthen this effort, we will maintain an open dialogue with the community about the operation and prevalent usage of such water systems while taking advantage of the in-region commitment and resources of CeCEP to provide ongoing support that continues beyond the duration of our trips.

Spanning ten days, the GWS team and the community of Caserio Panhux constructed 14 rainwater catchment systems on 14 households from August 11th until August 21st. During this time, the team stayed with generous host families located in San Cristbal, about a 50 minute drive through winding roads from Caserio Panhux. Daily, the team would arrive around 7 AM and begin a long day of construction. The community took part too, and would work with the team all day, often coming up with solutions better than their own. The systems themselves consisted of locally sourced materials, and included running gutters along the roofs of the houses and having those feed into a 2500 L storage tank resting on a square base of wood, dirt, and gravel, with sets of filters in between. In part, the systems seemed like a simple idea, but many challenges arose and the team had to adapt quickly and effectively. In the end, the GWS team and community were able to overcome all challenges, such as late deliveries and dead drill batteries, to reach their goal on completing 14 systems. The implementation trip culminated with a thank you feast organized by the community of Caserio Panhux, which included music, food, and laughs with everyone. The team returned on the evening of August 21st, just before a new semester of classes at NC State.

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The team and community constructed 20 more rainwater catchment systems during the second implementation trip in December 2018. New first flush systems were implemented on both the current 20 houses and the 14 houses from the previous trip to be more effective and user-friendly. The team also visited the houses that would receive systems on the next trip to better prepare for the following implementation.

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16 more systems were completed on the most recent implementation trip in August 2019. Since nine of the homes set to receive systems had plant roofs, these systems were instead completed on side structures with lamina roofs to ensure equal access to water for all members of the community. In addition, time was spent interviewing the women whose families had received rainwater catchment systems on the previous implementation trips to assess their effectiveness and impact. These conversations also allowed the team the opportunity to evaluate what modifications will need to be done on the existing systems during the last implementation trip such as adding extra gutter supports or using different brackets to ensure that each system continues functioning properly upon the project’s completion.


The original scope of work for the project is to design and implement rainwater catchment systems on 62 facilities, including the school and two churches in Caserio Panhux, Guatemala. However, there has been additional need identified in the community and this trip built 10 rainwater catchment systems in the spring of 2022.  It was revealed that leaks in the gutter connections were the main culprit, leading to a lower rainwater catchment efficiency. These leaks are able to be fixed using extra gutter supports and sealant. Some tanks were additionally having issues with water storage quantities due to leaks in the tank’s valve. The faulty tank valves were fixed by emptying the tank and replacing the faulty valve with a new, higher-quality part. Additionally, issues with the gutter hangers from the first implementation trip were mentioned. With heavy rainfall, the gutters were occasionally too low or not supported enough, and then either fell out of the hangers or didn’t collect any water at all. Temporary solutions were made by the community members, but this is something that needs to be further investigated. The initial notification of these issues was provided through continued communication with in-country NGO (CeCEP). This way of communication allowed us to assess the issue as a team and to have a solution ready for when we return to Guatemala.

The team plans to have a monitoring trip in the December of 2022. Modifications will be made on the previously completed systems, as well as a community survey and monitoring of the current systems. Water quality tests will be conducted to determine if the quality of water exiting the tank is suitable for potable uses. Further interviews will be conducted with the owners of the latest systems in order to continue receiving feedback on their efficacy. Additionally, water quality testing will be completed to ensure the safety of the existing systems and to evaluate the improvement in water quality provided by the rainwater catchment systems. Finally, one year from the final implementation trip, a monitoring team will travel to Caserio Panhux to assess each system’s continued function and whether the needs of the community are still being met.

Meet the Team

See our 2017 GWS video and travel book below to learn more about this project!