One of the largest areas of the lake Atitlan, Guatemala drainage basin is Santa Lucia Utátlan. The town of Santa Lucia is in serious need of clean water (for residents and the elementary school present there) and a series of spring recapture and a new water storage tank to deliver water to the affected community is planned. Potential grant costs – $200,000 for multiple spring containment.

The reforestation project aims to conserve the Lake Atitlan basin with a focus on the recovery of water recharge areas. It is planned to reforest in 2017 120,000 pine, alder and cypress trees. The areas are already identified and by the end of June the trees are arriving to be taken in the different collection centers. The reforestation will be in the first two weeks of July with community, municipalities, private and a small part with students of 15 municipalities.

This project focuses on the design, manufacture, marketing, and distribution of an advanced dry toilet technology which has the potential to:

(1) decrease the introduction of pathogens and nutrients into Lake Atitlán,
(2) reduce the demand for fresh water,
(3) reduce the load on existing wastewater treatment plants, and
(4) create high-quality pathogen-free fertilizer.

This technology differs from past composting toilet approaches in that the toilet will be an attractive modern appliance that fits in with a modern bathroom, and that will be desirable, independent of its ecological benefits. The ultimate goal of the project is to replace flush toilets in the Lake Atitlán watershed with waterless toilets, and to put in place an indigenous Guatemalan worker-owned and run business for the continued provision of this technology to users in the region

Santa Cruz la Laguna is a small village on the shore of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, with a population of 2000. It has had a wastewater treatment plant since 2004, but due to a lack of financial resources for a proper maintenance, the plant is working today at only 20% of its capacity for removing impurities which cause the bloom of cyanobacteria, effecting the health of humans and animals. The Santa Cruz project seeks to recover the investment and infrastructure of the wastewater treatment plant, thus improving the operation and efficiency in order to achieve the legal requirements and drastically reduce the raw sewage flowing into the lake.

Chacaya, a town on Santiago Atitlan Bay, drinks contaminated water directly from Lake Atitlan. A new spring has been identified above the town and Engineers without Borders(EWB) has engineered a spring containment program and new piping into the town of 2500. We are participating with EWB and want to put $7000 into the project budget to cooperate with this necessary update of clean water source and all of the health benefits this will bring to this lakeside town. RECLA strongly supports this clean water collaborative effort.

Nuevo Progreso is a small community, a suburb of Santa Lucia Utitlan, located on the pan American highway. There are 45 houses and a school which are all in need of water. There are two wells located in the area, but both have become dry. Water now must be carried to the homes and school. The engineering plan is to repair the wells and pump water to a 4000-gallon storage tank located on a hill top and supply the community by gravity feed from this tank. We have excellent community support with the Municipality of Santa Lucia pledging Q50,000 to the project and the community has pledged all the unskilled labor. Mil Milagros, a NGO, runs the school there and will aid us in hygiene and health care issues. We will also be working with the community to improve sanitation.

The Problem we are addressing:

Among the major contributors to the chemical pollution of Lake Atitlan is chemical fertilizer, pesticide and fungicide run-off into the Lake.  A major source of this problem is chemical coffee farming. The huge amount of fertilizer running off into the lake is a main contributor to recurring cyanobacteria algal blooms. Some types of cyanobacteria produce toxins that attack the liver of humans and cause fish kills.  This Toxin CAN NOT be filtered or boiled out of water and lake water is the primary source of drinking water for over 200,000 people living around Lake Atitlan.  Reducing chemical fertilizer inflow into Lake Atitlan is ABSOLUTELY  critical for the water supply of over 200,000 people.

Part of the Solution:

Already around the lake there is a growing collective movement to transition to organic farming, both because they get more money for their produce and because many farmers are seeing that their soil is being destroyed by the chemical fertilizers.  Currently in Guatemala there is not a large consensus to eat organic vegetables so there is not a large market for them however the trend world wide for organic coffee has created a large market for higher value (organic, farm to cup, fair trade) coffee beans and the native population is aware of this opportunity to increase their standard of living by producing a higher value crop.  Currently organic coffee sells for about 35% more then conventional coffee and Organic, farm to cup, fair trade coffee sells for about 50% more then conventional coffee.

We are working with an already established organic coffee farming cooperative of 175 organic coffee growers, Cafe Maya Chacaya Atitlan (APROCAMCA).  This cooperative is struggling to survive though because they don’t have the processing equipment to survive sustainably and grow to promote more farmers to change to organic practices.  The past few years they have been paying to use the equipment of another local cooperative however this year, that cooperative has sold their equipment which will force APROCAMCA to transport all their coffee over 20 miles (that’s a long ways for poor farmers in Guatemala to carry 100lb bags on their back) to have it processed thus drastically increasing their costs and labor. We have also identified 2 other cooperatives (1 has 125 conventional, chemical fertilizer coffee growers and the other has 92 members) that have approached APROCAMCA wanting to join them.  APROCAMCA has not been able to facilitate adding this many members though because of their equipment needs.

Mayeca Desmucilaginadora 7 Horsepower Q60,000 (This machine cleans the coffee beans)
Mayeca Desmucilaginadora 7 Horsepower Q60,000 (This machine cleans the coffee beans)

Also, APROCAMCA is currently using a very mediocre composting method utilizing only the coffee hulls left over from the previous years processing to compost and add back to the farmers soil as organic fertilizer.  We have setup a program with ARLA, a local organization of 400 volunteers working to promote Lake Health, that is harvesting the invasive water plant hydrilla out of Lake Atitlan to bring this hydrilla to the APROCAMCA composting facility to be mixed with their coffee hulls at no cost to APROCAMCA.  Hydrilla is very high in both nitrogen and phosphorus as well as other trace minerals and will result in a much higher nutrient level in their composts.  Due to the growth rate and reproductive mechanisms of hydrilla there is a perpetual supply of hydrilla to be used at all times for their compost.  Also, we will be utilizing EM (Effective Microorganisms) in their composting which is well documented in many studies to produce a high quality, organic compost in 2-3 months instead of the 1 year time frame that traditional composting takes.  As part of the equipment package we are looking to provide for them, we would also like to get them a reliable used Toyota 4 x 4.  This truck will be used to transport manure from a local horse farm that we have arranged to provide it to APROCAMCA for their compost, to transport their coffee in from the fields and to the storage facility after processing, transport workers to the fields and transport their organic compost to the fields (currently all this is done by manual labor!)  It will also be used as the “town ambulance” as this is a VERY poor town and has no medical service from nearby towns.

The enhancement of their composting methods by adding hydrilla, horse manure and EM will greatly increase the quality and quantity of their compost (organic fertilizer for their coffee) thus increasing the health and production of their coffee plants resulting in higher yields and higher value product thus increasing the standard of living of all involved.  This combined with providing them with the 2 pieces of equipment necessary to remove the hulls from the coffee and get their beans to the drying stage will enable APROCAMCA to be able to sustainable grow as an organization and continue to transition more and more coffee farmers from chemical fertilizers to organic farming methods in the Lake Atitlan watershed.  Immediately upon receiving the equipment APROCAMCA will accept the 2 waiting organizations of chemical coffee growers into APROCAMCA and has agreed to help them transition to organic coffee farming thus immediately transitioning 217 farmers from chemical to organic farming practices inside the Lake Atitlan watershed.

Organizations involved and their contributions:

APROCAMCA- 1. Has agreed to pay for all supplies and provide all labor for the installation of the water pump and coffee hulling equipment. 2. Provide all labor to produce the compost to facilitate the transition of the new members. 3. Has agreed to provide training for the new members on organic coffee growing techniques.

ARLA- Has agreed to use it’s 400 volunteers to harvest and transport the Hydrilla to the AGROCAMCA facility on a weekly basis.

Lake Atitlan Environmental Interests- 1. Will provide training to APROCAMCA on enhanced composting techniques. 2. Will provide training to APROCAMCA on use and application of EM.

The Goal of the Project:

The goal of this grant is to provide the equipment and materials necessary to increase the membership of APROCAMCA from 175 local coffee farmers to over 350 thus transitioning over 175 chemical coffee farmers to organic coffee farming in the watershed of Lake Atitlan.

Costs of the Project:

To facilitate the growth of this organic coffee growers cooperative and help more coffee farmers transition from chemical farming to Organic Farming practices inside the Lake Atitlan Watershed we would like to propose funding for the following items:

  1. $13,000 for a used Toyota 4×4 pickup to facilitate transporting beans to and from facilities and for obtaining organic inputs (manure, vegetation, etc) for compost and transporting compost to the farms. Titled in Associations name so can’t be resold by an individual.
  2. $12,500 to purchase the water pump and coffee hulling machine needed to process their coffee and make the cooperative sustainable and able to grow into the future (machine is pictured above).
  3. $4,500 to purchase EM, molasses and transport containers.
Mayeca submergible water pump 3 horsepower Q35,000  This water pump supplies water to the “bean cleaning” machine and pumps the waste away to the recycling pond.
Mayeca submergible water pump 3 horsepower Q35,000  This water pump supplies water to the “bean cleaning” machine and pumps the waste away to the recycling pond.

This project will increase the current number of coffee farmers in the region that utilize organic farming practices from 175 to over 350.  This project will also increase the standard of living of those 350 families by increasing the value of their crops by 35% to 50%.  Last year this cooperative produced 125,000 pounds of green coffee ready for export and sold it for $4.98/kilo (@ $2.26 lb.).  For a total sales of @ $282,500.  Taking the lower percentage gain from organic, farm to cup, fair trade marketing of 35% that amounts to a net gain of $98,875 (that’s just for the original 175 members). Factoring in the 175 membership increase and increased production due to more productive composting and growing methods this project will create over $250,000 of increased income for over 350 local families in just the first year at a cost of less then $30,000 and transition over 175 chemical coffee growers to organic in the Santiago bay area of Lake Atitlan.  The Rotarian investment of just under $30,000 will facilitate millions of dollars in increased income for these indigenous families over the coming years!  Combine that with the impact on the reduction of nutrient inflow into Lake Atitlan and we are VERY excited about this project!


Lake Atitlan in the Guatemalan Highlands is a world treasure; regarded as one of the most beautiful Lakes on Earth. Tourism is booming and the human population around the Lake is rapidly expanding. The Lake itself is in a crater and has no surface outflow so everything that flows in, stays in. This includes raw sewage from over 20 towns (on and above the lake) and large amounts of chemical fertilizers and pesticides from unsustainable chemical agriculture.  Without a bunch of grassroots efforts like this one, the scientific agency in charge of monitoring the lake, AMSCLAE, claims it will reach the point of non recovery within 7 years. It has become VERY clear that the “powers that be” who are in charge of protecting Lake Atitlan in Guatemala are not going to get the job done. In a country rife with corruption, any governmental funds end up lining pockets and local mayors have no plan of action.

Beyond destroying its natural beauty, the eutrophication of the lake threatens the livelihood of all who live here. At any given moment, roughly 20% of the population suffers from e-coli, amoebas, ghirdia and other intestinal pathogens, the main source being the contaminated drinking water from the Lake. In addition, Cyanobacteria blooms release toxins that are poisonous to the fish and invertebrates in the lake as well as the hundreds of thousands of people that depend on the lake for their drinking water.  The lake is besieged daily by thousands of gallons of raw sewage bringing with it an enormous amount of putrefactive bacteria and other pathogens.  During rainy season thousands of tons of organic matter and chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, etc wash off the surrounding fields and into Lake Atitlan.  This combination of sewage nutrients and chemical nutrients is far more then the lake can handle and it is deteriorating at a very fast pace.  To make matters worse, in some areas there is no water source for farming and local farmers are using the effluent from the waste water treatment plants to irrigate their crops.  NONE of these treatment plants even come close to properly treating the sewage so the farmers are irrigating their crops with basically raw sewage causing a human health crisis.


Bio-remediation is the process of using beneficial natural microorganisms to combat harmful ones and restore environments back to where they were previously. The good bacteria competitively exclude the bad bacteria and pathogens, digest nutrients in the sewage and are used to help transition chemical farmers to organic practices. These beneficial bacteria are the same ones that would normally inhabit a healthy ecosystem (whether that ecosystem is a lake, soil or our digestive tracts).  They consist of Lactic Acid bacteria (the same strains found in yogurt, etc), yeasts (the same strains used in the making of bread, beer, etc) and photosynthetic bacteria (the same strains that are in healthy soil).  They are grown in a special system to be used to repopulate them back into the environments where humans have caused the natural balance to shift to the putrefactive side (sewage treatment plants, chemically damaged soils, water bodies suffering from nutrient overloading and putrefactive bacteria inflows, etc).

The 2 areas we plan to focus on initially are the sewage treatment plants and chemical farming in the Lake Atitlan watershed.  Beneficial microorganisms are used world wide in sewage treatment plants to speed up and increase the effectiveness of their processes and greatly reduce their outflow parameters (ie, reduces nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), Total Suspended Solids (TSS), drastically reduces sludge amounts and coliforms such as e-coli).  Beneficial microorganisms are also used world wide to remediate damaged soils.  The land around lake Atitlan has been so damaged by chemical fertilizer use that the majority of the land can no longer support agriculture without the use of chemical fertilizers or a complete remediation. Repopulating the beneficial microorganisms in the soil is the fastest and most effective way to remediate damaged soils to transition to sustainable organic farming practices and is used world wide to do so.

We are seeking financing to set up a beneficial microorganisms production facility in Santiago Atitlan Guatemala to combat the pathogens and chemical fertilizer problems at their sources.  These sources include wastewater treatment plants which will be done in conjunction with AMSCLAE (the authority in charge of policing the waste water treatment plants in the Lake Atitlan watershed).  This grant will fund the construction of the facility and cover the costs of funding a 6 month pilot project with AMSCLAE at the San Bartolo wastewater treatment plant in Solola.  The outflow from this plant currently contains over 1100 times the accepted level of colliforms (e-coli, etc) and is used for direct irrigation onto human food consumption crops such as carrots, onions, cabbage, etc.  Beneficial microorganisms have been shown in many studies to both drastically reduce colliform levels and increase growth rates and production of plants.  Using them to treat the waste water in the San Bartolo wastewater plant will both significantly reduce pathogen exposure by the local farmers and increase the yields of their crops resulting in a huge benefit for the local population of indigenous farmers.

We will also be using the facility to provide beneficial microorganisms at low cost to hotels and businesses around the lake and working with schools to setup educational and student involvement programs in conjunction with several organizations that are already involved in school programs including ARLA and it’s 400 volunteers.  Using beneficial microbial products to treat wastewater and convert chemical agricultural farmers to sustainable organic practices has been a common practice in much of the world for decades.  We look to help the Lake Atitlan basin catch up with other areas of the world in the stewardship of the local environment and save Lake Atitlan by attacking the problems that are causing it’s eutrophication at their sources.  At the same time we will improve the health of local residents, increase their economic outputs and standard of living and raise awareness for the actual causes of what’s happening to the lake.

References for beneficial Microorganism usage in wastewater and agriculture around the world:

1.City of Los Angeles case study that shows the power of beneficial microbes to combat e-coli and accomplish a complete remediation of the affected area. Colliforms in this study were reduced from 15,300 MPN\100 ML down to just 30!

  1. City of Cartagena Columbia wastewater application. In this study beneficial microorganisms only had 2.5 hours of retention time and reduced TSS (Total Suspended Solids) by 68% and BOD (biological Oxygen Demand) by 66 % and total coliforms by 91%!

A study done using beneficial Microorganisms to treat sewage and then use the sewage to grow vegetables.  It documents an amazing difference in plant growth and nutrient content between bare soil, non beneficial microbe treated waste and beneficial microbe treated waste.

  1. This is a fabulous study done by UNICEF in Uganda for beneficial microorganisms used in latrines.
  1. This study shows a 92% reduction in costs at a waste water treatment plant in Japan while input increased 123%. Costs are also a major problem for towns on the Lake.

  1. I think this quote from a study done by the City of Meridian Texas says it all about the odor eliminating power and Phosphorous reduction Power of beneficial microorganisms. Here’s a quote from the study: “Odor was eliminated within 2 hours of the first application and did not return until after the trial had completed.  Grease solids that were visible on lift station walls were digested within the first week of applications.  Phosphorus levels dropped from 3.92 to 0.13 during the 4-week trial.”


The facilities will also provide beneficial microorganisms for a community outreach program that will educate the local population on the use of beneficial microbes in their toilets as well as sustainable organic agriculture practices to combat the use of chemical fertilizers. Simple and clear educational materials will be created by local volunteers in English, Spanish, Kaqchikel and Tz’utujil and free workshops and educational events will be held. We also will be working with organizations that already participate in school programs to “plug into” their systems and promote environmental and Lake awareness in the schools. Education is a major key to an ongoing, sustainable effort to care for the environment in a place where awareness is sorely lacking.


We are working closely with locals and community leaders in several towns around the lake, including San Marcos, Tzununa, San Pablo, San Pedro, Panajachel, Santiago and Solola and have many volunteers that are contributing their time and efforts to help this project succeed.  Awareness of the critical point that Lake Atitlan is reaching is spreading through the local population and the environment for change is prime so this is the time to capitalize on local concerns and work with the local communities.


AMSCLAE- AMSCLAE has agreed to provide scientific monitoring and oversight of the project of developing the scientific base info needed at an initial project in the San Bartolo Wastewater Treatment plant. The data collected each sampling will be Total Nitrogen (N), Total Phosphorous (P), Total Suspended Solids (TSS) and coliform levels.  This data will be used to expand the use of beneficial microorganisms into other wastewater treatment plants in the Lake Atitlan Basin.

  1. This monitoring is according to the following schedule:

1. 4 consecutive weeks prior to inoculation beginning.
2. Weekly monitoring for the first 6 weeks of the project.
3. Monthly monitoring for months 3-6.

2. ARLA has pledged it’s 400 local, indigenous volunteer members to help with community education, composting and application projects to educate and raise awareness of the problems facing the Lake within the local community.

3 .Lake Atitlan Environmental Interests is supplying all educational materials, technical support and onsite management for the whole project as well as the beneficial microbes for the educational programs.


  1. The facility expansion part of this grant will setup the facility to provide beneficial microorganisms for wastewater treatment projects with AMSCLAE to treat the waste water that currently is 100s of times below standards both in an initial pilot project and for use going forward in many agricultural, waste water and educational projects.
  2. The Mother culture acquisition part of this grant will provide the Beneficial Microorganisms to treat the waste water of the San Bartolo waste water treatment plant that is currently being used for agricultural purposes and causing sickness and disease in the local population.
    1. Currently coliforms in effluent are 1100 x 10(4) and standards is <1 x 10(4). We plan to bring them down below 20 x 10(4).
    2. Current nitrogen and Phosphorus outputs are 6.57 and 38 respectively. We plan to bring those numbers closer to 3 and 10.
    3. Total Suspended Solids (TSS) are currently 39.2 We plan to bring that number to below 20.
  3. The community outreach portion of this project will reach out to local organizations such as the Tuleros, coffee producers, fishermans associations, launcheros, ARLA, etc to educate them on the real issues facing the lake and how they can make changes in their habits and then they can in turn educate their community on more environmentally friendly practices and sustainable agriculture. These relationships are already in place.


  1. Extension Facility addition construction   $11,000
  2. Facility equipment:
    1. 8 large tanks for Extension   $400
    2. 2 transfer pumps   $250
    3. Hot water heater   $200
    4. Plumbing and electrical supplies   $150
    5. Water filter system w/ ultra violet   $800
    6. Tools   $800
    7. Application sprayer   $400
    8. Total                             $3,000
  3. Reactants for AMSCLAE monitoring of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, TSS and coliforms
    1.     Nitrogen                                1 kit = 25 tests  1700Q  Need 2 kits  3400Q
    2. Phosphorus 1 kit = 25 tests  1700Q  Need 2 kits  3400Q
    3. TSS (total Suspended Solids) 1 box 100 filters  800Q
    4. Coliforms                              1 bottle  250 tests  2500Q
    5. cleaning supplies (Acetone, hydrochloric acid, detergent, demineralized water) 1369Q

Total for AMSCLAE testing                                                                 11,469Q / 7.6 = $1509

  1. Outdoor shower area for volunteers                                                                                $1300
  2. Convert existing building into an office for volunteers                                                $1800
  3. Microbial mother culture ($60 per gallon) and Molasses ($4.50 per gallon) for the first  months  production. 20 gallon of EM 1 per week for first 2 weeks, 10 gallons per week for weeks 3 and  4 then 5 gallons per week for weeks 5-26 =
    1. 170 gallons mother culture @ $60 gallon $10,200
    2. 170 gallons Molasses @ $4.50 gallon      $765
    3. Total                             $10,965
  4. Fuel to deliver microbial extension to the Solola treatment plant weekly               $400


Total Costs of Project                                                                                             $US 29,974