Rose-Hulman EWB Members Learn from the Pros

Roger Ward, a member and project leader of the EWB Professional Chapter in Indianapolis, visited Rose-Hulman on Wednesday, November 6th to present his team’s clean water project in Kenya. Himself a Rose-Hulman graduate, Mr. Ward described how the project has progressed from the initial assessment trip in 2011 to the successful implementations in 2012 and 2013. His project focuses on ensuring sustainable clean water in the rural town of Bungoma, located in the highlands of western Kenya. A purification method known as a spring box was implemented to achieve this goal. Spring boxes capture the water from natural springs and filter it through several layers, including rough rock. The water can then be dispensed from an opening high enough for villagers to place their jugs underneath.

Throughout the presentation, Mr. Ward emphasized several guiding principles of Engineers Without Borders, including the importance of involving the community in the process, providing a solution that they are willing to use, and using locally available materials to work towards long-term improvement. To involve the community, his team met with community leaders to develop a memo of understanding. In this agreement, the community committed to help construct and routinely maintain the spring boxes in return for the EWB team’s pledge to oversee, train workers for, and fund the initial implementation. The team also made sure that the community would use the spring boxes, because many previous attempts by various organizations to provide a clean water supply failed due to a lack of maintenance, lack of funding, or lack of community acceptance. As a result, the team saw many abandoned pumps, water towers, and pieces of ruined equipment lying around the countryside. To minimize the cost and dependency on imported goods of their solution, the team used locally purchased bricks and other local supplies.

After the team’s successful implementation trips in January 2012 and 2013, the community reports a decrease in illnesses and water sampling indicates a 95% decrease in bacteria with the spring box filtration. Each spring box required two and a half days of labor and about $500 for materials, and the local workers quickly learned how to construct them. Overall, Mr. Ward’s presentation served as an inspiration for our EWB chapter; his team’s spring box project demonstrates how we can overcome many constraints to improve the quality of life of the poor around the world.