Press Release

Operation Agua Donations Reach $1.5 Million, Providing Safe Drinking Water for More Than 270,000 Students in Schools in Puerto Rico

Halfway to Fundraising Goal, Project Has Distributed Water Filters to Nearly All 1,106 Open Schools in Puerto Rico and to Families and Communities; First Large-Scale Reverse Osmosis System Installed in Hospital in San Juan

For Release: 

Thursday, December 21, 2017


Leslie Getzinger

WASHINGTON—Since Operation Agua launched in October, the partnership is halfway to reaching its fundraising goal, and the Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, has distributed 3,849 Kohler Clarity water filters to nearly every open school in Puerto Rico to provide safe drinking water to the 272,131 students enrolled. The remaining 25 schools will receive their water filters when the schools reopen after the holidays. 

“The AMPR is here for our students, our members, our schools and our communities,” said Aida Diaz, AMPR president. “We started our efforts in the schools because we wanted to ensure our students and staff had safe drinking water. This is a continuing plan to help Puerto Rico recover and rebuild and to support public education on our island.”

Responding to the water crisis in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, the AFT; Operation Blessing International; the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; the Hispanic Federation; the Seafarers International Union; and TOTE Maritime launched Operation Agua to crowdsource contributions and provide a reliable source of safe drinking water across Puerto Rico. 

“This week, we delivered Operation Agua water filters, clothes and gifts to students and faculty at Puerto Rico public schools—some still without electricity and only intermittent access to drinking water for the past three months since Hurricane Maria,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “I am in awe of all the educators and students here who are striving to move forward in the face of such daunting circumstances. I am equally inspired by the generosity of people all across our country, including students like the members of the Manchester Elementary fifth-grade student council in Omaha, Neb., who have collected dimes and dollars for Operation Agua and collectively helped us get halfway to our goal in just a few weeks. We will continue to support Puerto Rico to help make sure that our children are safe, that they receive all the help they need and that this crisis is not invisible, and the federal government should do the same.”

To date, Operation Agua has raised $1.5 million—halfway to its initial goal—to purchase and distribute 100,000 individual water filtration systems for households and classrooms, and to install large-capacity clean-water devices to a network of nonprofit organizations, union offices, schools and other community-based groups to provide stable and reliable sources of safe water.

This week, Weingarten is making her third trip to Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria to join AMPR leaders in delivering water filters to students and schools in Salinas and Ponce. In addition to lacking safe drinking water for students and staff, a large number of schools in Puerto Rico do not have reliable access to electricity, creating sweltering classrooms. Many teachers have spent their own money to purchase bottled water for their students.

Based on current donations, Operation Agua has committed to purchasing 55,920 Kohler filters, and so far 27,680 have been delivered to Puerto Rico or are currently en route. The Seafarers International Union and the shipping company TOTE Maritime are working together to ship these water filters to Puerto Rico for free.

A single $30 contribution covers the cost of an in-home purifier, the Kohler Clarity filter, which requires no electricity and provides more than 10 gallons of safe water per day to a family. And $5,000 delivers a disinfectant generator that can disinfect 150,000 gallons per day—enough safe water for thousands of people.

“This week, we worked with the AMPR to install a reverse osmosis water system in the Hospital Del Maestro in San Juan, which is now producing 27 gallons of safe water a minute for its patients and staff,” said Bill Horan, president of Operation Blessing. “We are in the process of installing several large-scale chlorinators in communities across the island so people have reliable access to ample safe water to drink, bathe in and clean with to prevent infections and disease.”

Along with water filter distributions to schools, Operation Agua partners are leading distributions directly to families and communities across the island. Members of the Servidores Publico Unidos, an AFSCME affiliate, are delivering thousands of filters to special education students and their families at worksites in Aguada, Arecibo, Bayamon, Caguas, Carolina, Coamo, Guayama, Humacao, Las Piedras, Mayaguez, Ponce, San German and San Juan.  

The Hispanic Federation has distributed hundreds of filters at a community college in Yauco and to community organizations in Humacao, Salinas and Yabucoa and is planning to deliver more in Las Marias and in the Caño Martin Peña neighborhood of San Juan.

See photos and video footage from Operation Agua distributions to schools, families and communities.

To make a donation or become an Operation Agua sponsor, go to

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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.