Members of The City College of New York (CCNY) Chapter of Engineers Without Borders traveled to Nueva Suiza, a small village in a mountainous region of Honduras, over their spring break to conduct preliminary work for designing a water collection, distribution and treatment for that community.
“They were awarded the project over some of the best engineering schools in the country because their proposal demonstrated understanding of the technical and cultural issues related to the project, ability to achieve the project and dedication to implementing sustainable designs,” said Professor Wittig.
The party visited Nueva Suiza, a community with approximately 250 residents, to collect and analyze water and soil samples, survey the natural topography to determine the best pathway for the distribution lines, and assess the existing health of the community as a result of drinking polluted water. The chapter worked on designing the new facility over the spring and summer. In August, a group from CCNY will revisit the village to begin construction using materials purchased by the CCNY student chapter and labor supplied by the community. The students will also train an elected villager to maintain the disinfection system.
Nueva Suiza’s existing water supply comes from a spring-fed pool contained by a natural dam made of rocks and clay. Community members must walk one kilometer to the dam to collect water and then carry it back to their homes. For many, the trek is too arduous and they have resorted to drawing water much closer to their homes from a small stream that has formed from the dam’s spillover. However, this rivulet has become contaminated and has caused many residents to become sick.
The project proposed by the CCNY students will develop a water capture and distribution system capable of serving the whole community as well as a treatment system to remove pollutants from the water prior to distribution. It also calls for a sanitation program to reduce groundwater contamination for nearby communities. “By disinfecting the water and then bringing it to the community, we will help to improve the community’s public health and free the water carriers to spend their time in more valuable ways,” said Wittig.