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Clean water for a Ugandan village

July 5, 2013

Northeastern’s chapter of Engineers without Borders (EWB) is traveling to Uganda in late July to begin the first phase of a long-planned project that will bring clean water to a village in Uganda. The village of Bbanda faces several challenges in accessing potable water. Nearby springs in the Ugandan village are contaminated with e-coli and the only clean drinking water is far from most homes, placing physical burden on children who are typically responsible for collecting it, and limiting how much people are willing to use it. The new system designed by EWB will pump clean water to storage tanks in the neighborhood which will then flow to 12 tap stands. Local residents have been heavily involved in the planning of the project and will be involved in the construction of the new system, ensuring that they have the knowledge to maintain the system.

Source: News @ Northeastern

The Ugandan vil­lage of Bbanda, home to about 1,100 people, has severely lim­ited access to drink­able water. Open sources are con­t­a­m­i­nated with escheria coli and the bore­holes that pro­vide potable water are far from most homes in the village.

“In the past, we’ve built rain­water tanks to help alle­viate some of the travel need, espe­cially for stu­dents who often miss school to col­lect water for their fam­i­lies,” said Kevin Rathbun, a civil engi­neering major and leader of the Uganda pro­gram for Northeastern’s chapter of Engi­neers Without Bor­ders. “But rain tanks are a Band-​​Aid for the real problem, which is water scarcity and quality.”

Later this month, a team of stu­dents from Northeastern’s chapter of EWB will travel to Uganda to imple­ment the first phase of a project aimed at improving access to potable water in and around Bbanda. The new system, which will be installed by locals and con­structed from equip­ment obtained in the area, will pump water from a bore­hole to two water storage tanks at the top of Bbanda Hill. From there, the water will flow to 12 tap stands in the neigh­bor­hood, pro­viding a steady flow of clean water to the com­mu­nity while main­taining the com­munal nature of water-​​gathering.

Many people in Bbanda, Uganda get their water from sources con­t­a­m­i­nated with e coli.

“This Uganda project is huge,” Rathbun said. “It’s a major step toward allowing this com­mu­nity to be self-​​sufficient.”

Team mem­bers have spent most of the last year plan­ning this summer’s trip, making sure the project is ready to go when they arrive at the end of this month. Locals are involved in the plan­ning and con­struc­tion, meaning they have the know-​​how to main­tain and repair the system.

This summer’s work in Uganda will be con­ducted in two stages by two teams, both of which will spend three weeks in the African nation, working from late July through early August. The entire project may not be fin­ished by the time stu­dents return to campus for class in the fall, but many of the most com­pli­cated components—generators, new con­crete storage tanks, and the majority of 11,000 feet of piping—will be in place, making it pos­sible for local workers to finish the job.

North­eastern stu­dents work with locals on the ground to com­plete their engi­neering projects.

Since its incep­tion in 2004, Northeastern’s chapter of Engi­neers Without Bor­ders has brought clean water to more than 2,000 people in Bbanda and El Car­riza­lito, Hon­duras, tai­loring each project to suit the cul­ture, geog­raphy, and unique issues facing each region. The Bbanda project is the group’s most ambi­tious to date, bringing water to more people than any of its pre­vious efforts.

“There are a lot of places in the world where people are just get­ting by,” said Anthony Maio­rano, a mechan­ical engi­neering major and EWB member. “But their quality of life would really improve with some­thing like a new water system.”

Many stu­dents in Northeastern’s chapter of EWB bring real-​​world expe­ri­ence to the water projects, having com­pleted co-​​ops at engi­neering com­pa­nies around the world.

“That’s one of the thing that makes our chapter so strong,” said civil engi­neering major Liz Cher­chia, the design lead for the Bbanda project. “Our mem­bers have prac­tical expe­ri­ence in engi­neering and that directly affects the work we’re able to do.”