International Project

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The Need

Since January 2016, the EWB-USC student chapter has been working with Common Hope, an NGO located in Antigua, Guatemala that is committed to improving education, health, and development throughout Guatemala. Common Hope cannot currently provide the basic necessity of clean water to the 4,700 people they directly impact due to contamination in their only water well. This contamination is due to excessive sediment and manganese contamination in their water supply. They have also been experiencing electrical submersible pump malfunction due to frequent brownouts. The focus of our project has been to provide clean water and a safe electrical supply to Common Hope’s campus. After visiting several of the families in the surrounding communities on our initial assessment trip, we learned how heavily the communities rely on Common Hope’s campus, health clinic, and academic support.

EWB-USC’s Response

During Spring of 2016, USC students worked with professional engineering mentors to research solutions that would prevent future electrical brownouts, improve water quality, and reconfigure the infrastructure of their crumbling well. In August 2016, five members of the EWB-USC student chapter flew to Guatemala to assess the severity and causes of Common Hope’s issues.

Over a three-day trip, we determined that the wiring inside the electrical panels of the submersible pump was not coated properly and lacked proper grounding attributing to brownouts and blackouts; this prevented Common Hope from drawing water from its well. We also conducted water quality tests on the water drawn from Common Hope’s natural aquifer to determine if the sediment contamination was entering from the aquifer or another source downstream. All test results came back within the United States national potable drinking range, confirming that the aquifer was an adequate water source for the campus. Finally, we lifted the 135-foot-deep submersible pump inside the well and lowered a camera to examine the integrity of the well casing. We concluded that the inner well casing had suffered serious corrosion and needed lines with new pipes to prevent further unwanted sediment from entering their water supply.

The data collected on our assessment trip has now allowed us to move forward to the implementation trip which will take place at the beginning of Summer 2017. To address Common Hope’s issues, we plan on renovating their filtration system by adjusting the submersible pump flow rate to decrease sediment contamination and applying new filtration technology for microbial filtration once the water has been drawn. Additionally, we will revamp their electrical system to implement proper wiring with the resiliency to withstand Guatemala’s intense rainy seasons. By securing clean water and a safe electrical supply, Common Hope can continue to provide invaluable resources to Antigua’s underdeveloped communities.

To address Common Hope’s issues concerning their faulty electrical system, poor water quality, and a possibly broken well casing, we sanctioned three committees to handle the electrical, filtration, and well components of this project throughout the three days we were at work.

Check out our assessment trip video here!

Our upcoming implementation trip is August 14-18!

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If you want to get involved, e-mail us at ewb@usc.edu!