Miramar, El Salvador is a small rural community of 200 that was once a camp for refugees during the civil war in the 1980's. The community has a few shallow wells that dry up during El Salvador's dry season. During this time, the women and children must sacrifice pursuing employment or going to school for collecting contaminated water from a river located a half-mile hike away.
Since May of 2007, Drexel's Chapter of Engineers Without Borders has been working on designs to provide the community with sufficient clean water all year round. After traveling to Miramar twice, we determined the best project plan was to drill a deep well within the town. Unfortunately, the third trip did not yield good results, as the equipment used was not able to drill through the layers of hard rock. Unavoidable problems of shallow wells in the town include trace runoff of human and animal fecal matter and a water cycle believed to increase the water's nitrate levels. This nitrate increase can lead to higher infant mortality rates. Ailments like diarrhea are commonplace for the people of Miramar. With the high cost of a more thorough deep well assessment and uncertainty that a deep well assessment trip would result with a favorable outcome, it was apparent that we needed to readdress our project plan.
We began brainstorming and researching designs that would work for Miramar. Run-off rainwater designs were quickly eliminated as the country's dry season would not guarantee consistent clean water. Connecting to a local town's water supply proved to be too costly and issues with dependence on the local town for water was not embraced well. So, we determined that the least expensive sustainable design was to utilize the local river's water supply and pump it up to Miramar.
After our latest assessment trips to Miramar, we discovered both the river and the wells are contaminated with fecal coli forms, E. coli and other bacteria. We took gps elevation measurements to accurately calculate and plan our design. We also took river flow measurements and have been collecting periodical river flow measurements from Miramar since returning.
Microorganism sample testing from our biofilters in Miramar
THE MIRAMAR WATER PROJECT
We are currently finalizing the water collection, filtration, pumping, sterilization, storage and distribution system designs. The designs will enable the women and children of the town to pursue employment and attend school, along with ensuring the water is safe to drink. The amount of water collected from the river will be much less than 1% of the daily water flow and slightly greater than the amount of water currently collected from the river by the women and children of Miramar. The supplies that will be used to complete the design will be available locally to ensure that the town will be able to fix any damage to the design.
We have taken time to meet with and discuss all of our ideas with the Miramar community to ensure it is something they would utilize and maintain. We have helped them to understand the contamination issue with their water and made efforts to discuss with them some immediate solutions to the problem. The people of Miramar are excited to be working with us to help them build a clean water system that will last.