Engineers to help Panamanians get potable water

On Tuesday, September 30, the RPI chapter of Engineers Without Borders will be hosting “Cookies and Cocoa for a Cause” to support further work on their project in Panama. In January 2015 five members of EWB RPI will be traveling to Panama to implement a water catchment and treatment system for the 350 community members of Isla Popa II. The community members support themselves on six times less than the average American, and half the usage of an average Panamanian. Currently, without a reliable source of potable water, the island-dwelling Panamanian community members have been collaborating with EWB-RPI since 2010 in drafting a large-scale water harvesting system that will sustainably provide water for the community’s school. EWB-RPI is hard at work finalizing the designs for a pavilion-based rainwater catchment system that will be constructed during this first implementation trip. Two 600-gallon tanks will be mounted near this pavilion and will store water collected on the roof. As a preliminary water treatment procedure, a “first-flush” system designed by EWB-RPI club members will pre-flush the first few millimeters of water that falls on the pavilion roof to rid the water of solid contaminants. Furthermore, four to five bucket-based biosand filters will be constructed and placed in the local school cafeteria for use in filtering the gathered rainwater. EWB-RPI prioritizes sustainability of projects, and thus will ensure that community members have been trained to properly use and maintain the constructed system. Before leaving the community, club members will search for future construction sites, analyze current drinking water practices, and collect water contamination data using microbial testing kits.

EWB will be tabling outside of Sage Dining Hall selling fall goodies and hot drinks from 10 am–4 pm on September 30 to help supplement the cost of travel for students and to raise awareness about water scarcity. One out of nine people in the world do not have access to clean drinking water and 443 million school days are lost across the world every year due to water-related illness according to the Water Project. EWB USA alone has over 360 professional and collegian chapters working on water supply project in over 40 different countries. EWB is a non-profit organization whose mission is to “support community-driven development programs worldwide through partnerships that design and implement sustainable engineering projects, while creating transformative experiences that enrich global perspectives and create responsible leaders.” This unique collaboration between the community and their EWB chapter means that the projects are not only environmentally
sustainable, but are also feasible for the community to sustain on their own long after EWB has played their role.

EWB-RPI is looking forward to fostering campus support, and more importantly, raising awareness about the community of Isla Popa II next Tuesday! Anyone interested in learning more about the event or project can check out EWB-RPI’s Facebook, Twitter, and website or email or stop by Sage Dining Hall from
10 am–4 pm on September 30.