The Yale Student Chapter of Engineers Without Borders was given their first project in the fall of 2005. The project took place in a small, rural village in the mountainous region of Honduras.
About the Community
The town of El Rosario frequently ran out of water. One possible cause was that the springbox, which captured the water for the village from a single source, may have been clogged with silt. It was built in 1998 just before Hurricane Mitch, and villagers claimed that it had not worked well since the Hurricane. Villagers also noted a change in local microclimate over the past ten years (from cooler and more tropical to hotter and drier) which may have resulted from extensive logging in the area surrounding the village. They suggested that there might actually be less water coming from the spring. Prior to the project the spring provided ~ 8-13 gpm.
In addition to lower yields from the springbox, the water shortage may have been exacerbated by two factors. First, a float valve located at a pressure break tank below El Rosario was broken and water overflowed at ~ 4 gpm.
Second, certain villagers left their taps running continuously at approximately 3 gpm each. About 4 households with taps left open could waste the entire village water supply.
EWB-YSC Objectives were to:
- Improve the current system to provide more water to the town.
- Eliminate unnecessary water loss.
- Learn new techniques as engineering students.
Although EWB-YSC was forced to adapt to various challenges, the group successfully implemented a newly designed water system for the village of El Rosario, Honduras. The design features a buried perforated pipe collection bed wrapped in a mesh filter and covered with finely graded sand. Approximately 30% more clean water was added to the village’s water supply through the implementation of the system. The newly collected water combined with water that was already being collected by the old spring box in a newly constructed diversion box. The main pipeline to the village exits from this box, carrying the water that is collected from both collection systems.
The second task was the repair of the float valve on the break tank between El Rosario and San Jose. A float valve located at a pressure break tank below the lower village was broken. Water continuously flowed into the tank, which leads to a neighboring village. When the neighboring village did not use this water, the tank overflowed. EWB-YSC measured an overflow rate of ~ 4 gpm during their visit, roughly 30% of the total water supply of the village. Several options for the float valve were reviewed. A system of pipes connected by compression fittings was installed inside the tank, along with a heavy duty float valve. This minor repair saved ~ 30% of the total water supply from being unnecessarily wasted. EWB-YSC also created a support structure for a sagging pipe section spanning a river bed, preventing rupture.
The opportunity to work in a developing community allowed the team to better understand social dynamics while benefiting from community work. Students in the team were able to see a project from start to finish and gain hands-on experience in design and construction. EWB-YSC was impressed with the level of commitment from the community and their receptivity to new ideas.