Cal Poly EWB Begin Plans for Water Distribution and Purification System

February 12, 2018

Cal Poly Engineers without Borders begin plans to bring water to 300 residents in Nicaragua. 

Engineers without Borders team in La Rinconada, Nicaragua. Kyle Ennis is pictured second from left.         

Over winter break, the Cal Poly Engineers Without Borders (EWB) team visited the small Nicaraguan village of La Rinconada to begin plans for a water purification and distribution system for the 300 residents. Third year Mechanical Engineering student, Kyle Ennis, was one of the six members who took the trip South.

Since Cal Poly EWB was started in 2005, the team of Cal Poly students have worked on a multitude of projects addressing water sanitation and food security throughout different parts of the world. Cal Poly students are able to put into practice what they’ve learned in their classes while solving real world problems and exemplifying Cal Poly’s “Learn by Doing” philosophy. Kyle has been involved with EWB since his first year at Cal Poly and is now a project manager for the Nicaragua team.

“Students are actually designing and building these projects. We get to learn about real, external factors that can affect projects. There’s so much more that goes into these projects than just the math and science,” said Kyle Ennis.

During the winter trip, the EWB team got to know the community members and visited each house to get an accurate understanding of the community’s water needs. Currently, La Rinconda relies on a natural spring that flows through a pipeline that is subject to cracking because of its shallow position in the soil. The pipeline does not reach all 87 homes and water is often contaminated because of pollution from the livestock. Some homes have dug wells in their yards as their source of water. Illnesses have been attributed to the lack of clean water in the community. 

La Rinconada residents raising their hands in support of EWB project.        

Cal Poly EWB has been working with local community leaders and a NGO (non-governmental organization) specializing in water-related issues to create the water process system since EWB officially became a partner in October 2017. Over 30 Cal Poly students from almost every type of engineering major have been working together to design the water process system. The final design will take about 6 months to complete and will be approved by a Professional Engineer.

The project has been received with open arms by the community. Kyle recalls, “At a community meeting, one of the Spanish speakers [translators] asked if anyone was willing to contribute to the project. Almost everyone rose their hand and it was exciting to see that the entire community was excited about this project as well.”

The water distribution and purification system will provide clean water for all 87 homes in La Rinconada and will completely cut off the old water source. They are planning on drilling the well in Spring 2018 and hope to be done with the entire pipeline distribution system by Summer 2019.

“I am looking forward to helping 300 people who are really excited to get water to their doorstep, keeping in touch, and seeing where they go from there,” said Kyle.

EWB students conducting surveys to understand the needs of La Rinconada residents.   

Written by Ilianna Salas