The Rotary Club of Cleveland adopted a clean water project in Guatemala in 2010. Club members learned Tuesday how they can help the Chattanooga Chapter of Engineers Without Borders plan and build the projects in the villages of Las Penitas and El Chingo, Honduras.
Mark Harrison of Chattanooga said there is a continuous water source approximately 1,240 miles from El Chingo and Las Penitas. Completion of the task requires about 2,480 miles of tubing.
Harrison is the chief engineer for Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority and senior engineer at Mountain Creek Engineering.
He said the communities are requesting the waterline and water taps for one of the villages but it will be necessary to construct a water supply tank of at least 5,000 gallons.
The community has a need for potable water and water for irrigation purposes. The highest priority is safe potable water for both villages.
He said some parameters in designing a project include the terrain, culture, equipment and materials selection and sustainability.
Harrison helped start the local professional chapter about two years ago and a student chapter at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is entering its second year.
The founding principle behind the organization is to work with nongovernmental organizations on more than 350 projects in 45-plus developing countries around the world. They help create a more stable and prosperous world by addressing people’s basic human needs by providing necessities such as clean water, power, sanitation and education.
“Besides giving back to the community as engineers, we are also working with and encouraging participation of the next generation of engineers,” he said.
Part of the problem of building a sustainable infrastructure in a developing country is to work with available resources. Not only do the people being helped benefit, but the overall engineering profession benefits from future engineers. Students are taken out of their classroom setting and placed in a professional role.
“They are put in the mindset of a professional and then removed from that mindset to the mindset of a Honduran,” he said. “It’s challenging and it’s fun to watch.”
The role of the professional chapter, along with professors, is to act as the technical review of selected projects. The local chapter is open to anyone of any profession.
Harrison said Engineers Without Borders grew from little more than a handful of members since its founding in 2002 to more than 12,000.
Engineers Without Borders began as a casual conversation between a civil engineering professor at Colorado State University, Bernard Amadei, and a landscaper, Angel Tzec, working in his backyard.
Tzec invited Amadei to visit his village in San Pablo, Belize, which was desperately in need of clean water. The professor accepted the invitation and flew to the village, which had no running water, electricity or sanitation. He also saw little children carrying water from a nearby river.
Amadei returned in May 2001 with eight engineering students and, working with the local community, installed a clean water system powered by a local waterfall.
The solution was simple, sustainable and low-cost; the entire project was completed for $14,000.
Amadei decided professional and student engineers could complete similar low-tech, high-impact projects in other developing countries, which led to Engineers Without Borders-USA.
Harrison said the Honduran project is estimated to cost $20,000. For more information, visit www.ewb-usa.org.