Oct 052008
Authors: Kayla Huddleston

Designing wells, laying pipes and installing house-to-house water distribution systems are all projects that some students on campus are aiming to complete with each task they take on.

Engineers Without Borders is a group of students dedicated to improving the lives of people in rural communities across the globe by designing and implementing projects to advance water cleanliness and distribution.

After planning the layout of the systems and raising the necessary funds to complete the projects, EWB groups travel to another country for weeks at a time to meet with community members and begin construction.

“Our mission (is to) help empower communities while working on small-level community projects,” said Eric Golike, a senior chemical and biological engineering student and EWB-CSU president. “We also seek to give students a service-learning experience, so they will be influenced to volunteer more.”

This year the group is splitting its efforts and planning two trips for January, each to a village in El Salvador. The first trip will be to San Antonio Abad, and the second trip will be a senior design trip, in which engineering students will receive academic credit for their efforts, to Las Colinas.

The destinations for these trips were considered after a related trip in August of 2007, when the group traveled to the El Salvador villages La Laguenta and El Chile to install a water delivery system.

During the dry season in these villages, water is rationed, and each family is allotted 25 to 100 liters of water a day to drink, wash dishes with and bathe in.

Over the three weeks the group spent there, two wells were dug and evaluation for future projects was completed.

“Even though the wells did not produce enough water to solve the water shortage problems of these two communities, they are a step in the right direction,” an EWB trip report said. “Many other important tasks were accomplished on this trip, which will enable future phases to be carried out. With a better understanding of the area and of the needs of both of these communities, EWB-CSU is striving to develop new solutions and return to the area in the near future.”

San Antonio Abad, a village located in northwest El Salvador, experiences severe water shortages between October and April, forcing people to walk long distances to retrieve water.

In an effort to fix this problem, EWB-CSU has completed three site assessments and had four senior design groups work on the project. Since 2005, the group has installed a pump in the well and put in a water chlorination system.

The next group, traveling in January, looks to start phase two and set up a house-to-house water distribution system.

The second group, a senior design project to Las Colinas, will spend its time canvassing the area, taking elevations, surveying the community about health issues and getting a better understanding of community needs.

“In this site assessment, I hope to get an idea of what the community’s primary needs are and get more information on how our design would fit into their cultural lifestyle,” said Christine Sednek, a senior environmental engineering major and project leader. “This will be a paramount project, because we get to go in and design and start things from the beginning instead of tearing stuff up.”

Students interested in getting involved with EWB-CSU can go to a project or committee meeting or join the e-mail list at http://www.engr.colostate.edu/ewb.

“I think there’s a lot of impact you can have in the communities,” Golike said. “It’s really exciting being in a country with a mission. (The community members) are so excited to see you, and it’s amazing to interact with people who are a whole world away.

“You can see a tangible effect, and that’s very rewarding to me.”

Staff writer Kayla Huddleston can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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