George Mason University
George Mason University Mason
George Mason University

Engineering students help bring clean water to village in Ecuador

October 9, 2019   /   by Nanci Hellmich

"Even though we had to deal with the landslide, we worked with the community to design another great distribution system that will help everyone.”

— Civil engineering senior Anna Close, president of EfID

Students prepare to build clean water system in village in Ecuador

Members of the Engineers for International Development (EfID) are building a new clean water system for a small village in Ecuador. Pictured here from left: Don Manuel with members of EfID including Paul Cipparone, Anna Close, Ben Tieu, Sylvia McLain, local resident Darwin Paredes, faculty advisor Matt Doyle, Rachel Conrad, Mike Belay, and Hannah Saggua.

Mason Engineering students are known for tackling complex problems. That’s why they aren’t letting a landslide get in their way when designing a new clean water system for a small agricultural community in Ecuador.

Several members of Mason’s chapter of the Engineers for International Development (EfID) traveled to San Pablo de Amali in January 2019 to assess the area’s current water system and find a way to improve it. They discovered that the drinking water in the agricultural community has high levels of bacteria, and many homes don’t have access to running water.

The group decided to use the Chontayacu River as a source of water for a new system. “We were planning to return in June to build a sophisticated filtration system, but in the spring, there was a landslide that reduced the river’s flow so we had to find a different source of water,” says mechanical engineering senior Paul Cipparone, vice president of EfID.

On their summer trip, the students chose a new site for the system on the Limon River, upstream from the village.  “The river goes through the village, but we can’t make the intake in the middle of it because then gravity won’t bring water to the people upstream,” he says. “We have to put our intake system at a higher elevation so the top houses in the community can get it, too.”

Civil engineering senior Anna Close, president of EfID, says, "Even though we had to deal with the landslide, we worked with the community to design another great distribution system that will help everyone.”

The municipal government will use its trenching equipment to get the water piped into the area's 50 homes.

“We want everyone to have access to clean water, but we won't be tearing out the old system in case someone decides that they still want to use it,” Close says. 

EfID has conducted projects in Nicaragua, Honduras, the Peruvian Andes, and the Amazon, addressing small communities' concerns about water shortages, clean water access, sanitation, and hygiene. “They do phenomenal work," says Dave Lattanzi, an associate professor in the Sid and Reva Dewberry Department of Civil, Environmental, and Infrastructure Engineering.

The group's projects are funded by the Civil Engineering Institute, and EfID raises money with events, such as its 5K/10K Fun Run at Burke Lake Park on November 2. 

In January, the group will return to Ecuador with eight students, Lattanzi, faculty advisor Matthew Doyle, and outside advisor Ingrid Davis-Colato of Michael Baker International.

 “We will be building the water filtration system, barring another landslide,” Cipparone says.

Expertise