Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Engineers Without Borders Works with Kenyan Village to Improve Water Supply

05.09.2008
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:
http://www.umass.edu/newsoffice

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Minimized water consumption in CSP plants - EU project MinWaterCSP is making good progress
05.12.2017 | Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum

nachricht Jena Experiment: Loss of species destroys ecosystems
28.11.2017 | Technische Universität München

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: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

Im Focus: Virtual Reality for Bacteria

An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications

Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...

Im Focus: A space-time sensor for light-matter interactions

Physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (run jointly by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics) have developed an attosecond electron microscope that allows them to visualize the dispersion of light in time and space, and observe the motions of electrons in atoms.

The most basic of all physical interactions in nature is that between light and matter. This interaction takes place in attosecond times (i.e. billionths of a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

PhoxTroT: Optical Interconnect Technologies Revolutionized Data Centers and HPC Systems

11.12.2017 | Information Technology

Large-scale battery storage system in field trial

11.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>