Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Engineers Without Borders Works with Kenyan Village to Improve Water Supply

Members of the Engineers Without Borders (EWB) student chapter at the University of Massachusetts Amherst recently returned from a three-week trip to Kenya, where they worked to improve drinking water for a rural farming village.

It was the third visit of the group as part of its long-term Kenya Water Program, which is aimed at providing a self-sufficient water supply for several thousand people in the rural farming village of the Namawanga area in western Kenya.

Namawanga, a community that raises sugarcane, sweet potatoes and corn, relies on water sometimes located more than two miles away. Villagers must fetch their water on foot from sources often contaminated with animal and human waste or running dry during part of the year. Each household spends up to five hours per day gathering water.

The EWB project will impact Namawanga by creating reliable water sources that serve more than 3,000 people in the surrounding countryside and reduce their chances of contracting waterborne diseases such as dysentery, typhoid and cholera. The improved water sources will also allow the residents more time to raise food, participate in income-generating activities and attend school. The goal is to give Namawanga a water supply that is uncontaminated and sustainable by local technicians.

“The first thing we did on this trip was assess all the springboxes,” says EWB Kenya Program team leader Christina Stauber, a graduate student in environmental engineering.

A springbox is a structure made of a concrete retaining wall with steel piping that collects and stores water from a natural spring. Ideally, each springbox should function to protect the spring water from contamination by human and animal waste and provide a point of collection. But most of the springboxes in Namawanga are not doing their job effectively and the EWB has been improving them, chiefly by building fencing around the boxes to keep out animals.

“There were about 15 springboxes and natural springs that we had to visit and assess,” said Stauber. “Then, once we discussed the issues with the village, we got to work. We built fences around four springboxes this year. We fenced in four springboxes during our last trip to Kenya, and the villagers did another two. This trip we also built a new springbox from scratch on a natural spring that doesn’t dry out. That means constructing the concrete water storage area to hold and discharge water from the spring.”

The EWB team also did water quality and flow measurements of water sources and checked the status of previously installed fencing. One fence had obviously been invaded by a cow and some posts had rotted in the 18 months since they were emplaced, so EWB worked with villagers to install steel fence posts set in concrete to keep out grazing animals.

The UMass Amherst EWB chapter has been raising the $20,000 required to drill a permanent deep borehole on the grounds of a technical school in Namawanga, where the surrounding community will have a clean, year-round water source. By contrast, it takes only about $100 to build a new springbox, but the water availability is less reliable than a well and the water more likely to be contaminated.

“EWB is giving me a good glimpse of what my future could be like,” said Stauber. “I’ve had the idea in mind all along that I could be an engineer doing international development, but this trip made that idea much more concrete. In Kenya, I got a good sense about what the need actually is in developing countries and what I personally can do about it. It was a huge learning experience.”

Accompanying Stauber were graduate student Amanda Keyes, undergraduates Patrick Border and Patrick Westropp, recent graduates Thomas Chase and Christopher Arsenault, John Tobiason, professor of civil and environmental engineering, and professional mentor David Bakuli. Bakuli earned his doctorate in industrial engineering from UMass Amherst in 1993 and now teaches at Westfield State College. He is also from western Kenya, so he knows the culture and speaks Swahili and the local language.

The UMass Amherst EWB chapter includes engineering and non-engineering students whose mission is to help disadvantaged communities improve their quality of life by developing environmentally friendly and economically sustainable projects.

“For me it’s the kind of project I’ve wanted to get involved with for years,” said Tobiason. “I know I have a lot of knowledge that’s transferrable to the field. I’m very practical. My father was a carpenter who could build things. I inherited that sort of hands-on skill. To go to a place where I can just jump in and put my knowledge to work, showing people how simple it is to improve their water resources, that’s all very satisfying. It’s fulfilling to a different part of me than the guy who’s been teaching and conducting technical research for 20 years.”

Tobiason and Stauber also lectured to some 1,100 secondary and primary school students on water treatment and sanitation issues and encouraged students at a local university to get involved in the work at Namawanga.

Christina Stauber | Newswise Science News
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

nachricht Malaysia's unique freshwater mussels in danger
27.09.2016 | The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging

25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Etching Microstructures with Lasers

25.10.2016 | Process Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>