It’s difficult to realize how important clean water is in day-to-day life until it’s gone. West Virginia University’s Engineers Without Borders chapter spent a week of their summer planning how to give that valuable resource to a community in Caobete, Dominican Republic.
Nine members of EWB used the knowledge gained through their classes in the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources to conduct research and resource analysis to find a dependable water source that could benefit from filtration and disinfection systems in a rural community that relies heavily on bottled water and rain collection for drinking, cooking and washing needs. Wells are limited, shallow and polluted in the area and are operated by pumps that run on electricity.
“Caobete only has four to five hours of electricity on a good day, which strictly limits the amount of water that can be drawn from wells,” said Brian Donnelly, EWB project lead. “Our goal was to find a significant water source that we could then treat, giving the people of Caobete much more freedom to use water.”
The group split into three task teams to fully assess the water supply issue. The first team tested 13 water sources for quality and safety. Rain water collection tanks, wells and an irrigation canal were among the water sources tested. The second group mapped the community by plotting the location of all water test sites, waste sources, community meeting centers, businesses and farm perimeters on a Global Positioning System. The last group was responsible for determining the overall water demand per capita, which they achieved through interviewing more than 20 families.
Back in Morgantown, the group will use the data to choose the best water source available and design a sustainable solution to provide an economical, safe and constant water supply. The students will return to Caobete next year to implement the design.
“This experience taught each of us something new,” said Donnelly. “There was only so much that we could do before our trip to ensure we could achieve our goals. Once we got on site, we all worked together as a team to face each challenge which helped us excel at every task.”
Students were selected for the trip based on their previous participation in EWB service projects and events, leadership and group work skills and aptitude for the tasks involved with the trip. The students were juniors Rebecca Cokeley (mechanical engineering, Harrisville), Elizabeth Dang (industrial engineering, Morgantown), Michael Fouts (chemical engineering, Bridgeport), Katherine Warner (electrical engineering, Morgantown), Josh Watson (industrial engineering, Morgantown) and Donnelly (chemical engineering, Morgantown). Also selected were seniors Ryan Butler (civil engineering, Huntingtown, Maryland), Erika Allen (civil engineering, Wheeling) and sophomore Ahmed Haque (chemical engineering, Morgantown).
The group partnered with Every Day Hope, a humanitarian organization focused on building self-sustainable communities to improve quality of life. Funds for the project were provided by the Statler College and the departments of chemical engineering, civil and environmental engineering,” industrial and management systems engineering, computer science and electrical engineering and mechanical and aerospace engineering. Other organizations that supported the chapter’s efforts included WVU’s Student Government Association, Office of International Programs, NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium and the Statler College’s Office of Outreach and Recruitment. For more information on WVU’s EWB activities, visit: http://ewb.studentorgs.wvu.edu.
“Our students did an excellent job engaging with the people in Caobete and finding an economically and socially acceptable solution for the community,” said Lian-Shin Lin, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and faculty advisor to EWB. “These trips not only benefit the local community but our students as well. They apply what they’ve learned in the classroom and become better engineers because of it.”
CONTACT: Mary C. Dillon, Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
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