January 30, 2012

Cornell Engineers Bring Clean Water to Communities in Honduras

Print More

A team of 19 Cornell engineering students traveled to Honduras over winter break to design water treatment plants with the AguaClara, an internationally recognized organization that aims to bring clean water to towns in the country, where 60 to 70 percent of people do not have clean water.

The team worked from Jan. 6 to Jan. 20 on various AguaClara projects, including the construction of the Atima plant, the organization’s eighth water plant construction project.

Students conducted research on plans for the plant, received feedback from local Honduran engineers and tried to improve their understanding of the crises facing local communities, according to one of the engineers, Annie Newcomb ’13, who is also The Sun’s associate design editor.

Members of the AguaClara team stayed with host houses for several days, according to Victoria Klug ’14, one of the program’s participants. Klug said she was surprised by the conditions in the small towns they worked in.

“On the first night, we were dirty from traveling and needed to take a shower. I told my hosts that I didn’t mind not having hot water,” Klug said. “My host told me that I should take a shower and handed me a bucket of cold water. That was their everyday way of cleaning, and it was very interesting to live through it first hand.”

After their trip to Honduras, Klug and Newcomb, said they plan to design a more efficient system that would allow plant operators to accurately add the ideal amount of chlorine into the water.

Julia Morris ’13, the project’s leader, said that the trip to Honduras was meaningful for the volunteers because they were able to see the importance of AguaClara’s mission to the Honduran communities.

“We got to see how much the community valued clean water,” she said.

Many communities AguaClara works with are very small and generally overlooked due to their lack of resources, Newcomb said.

She added that participating in the project had greater benefits than increasing the volunteers’ knowledge and engineering skills.

“It’s not just an engineering project,” Newcomb said. “We’re not designing something for competition or research. This project has achieved solutions that other Honduras plants have not achieved.”

Klug echoed her sentiments and added that the trip affirmed her commitment to the AguaClara project.

“I’ve always been aware of the problem [of people living without clean water], but seeing firsthand and living through that short term … it really confirmed my commitment to work with this project,” Klug said.

Original Author: Jinjoo Lee