Four students from the West Virginia University Chapter of Engineers Without Borders traveled to the Kasese District of Uganda on August 6-13, to begin a five-year project that will provide a safe water supply for residents in the village of Kabughabugha.
Kabughabugha has a population of 7,200 people who live in extreme conditions without basic sanitation and hygiene practices or easy access to clean water. Women and children must walk up to three miles through the rugged terrain in the Rwenzori Mountains multiple times per day barefoot just to collect unfiltered water for drinking, cooking or washing.
WVUEWB is on a mission to provide the villagers with a clean and reliable water supply as well as a system that will pump water into the village, eliminating many of the hardships they face on a daily basis.
“The people of Kabughabugha survive with the absolute least but have some of the most pure and kind souls,” said Morgan King, a civil and environmental engineering major from Charleston. “Through the engineering of a water system and the education of best sanitation and hygiene practices we believe the lives of the locals can be transformed.”
The goal of their first trip was to conduct an assessment of the current water supply that has been polluted with fertilizer and untreated sewage. Students spent five days collecting water samples to test for PH levels, conductivity, turbidity and other factors that would help them later establish filtration options for the water supply.
They also surveyed the land and performed GPS mapping of the surrounding area to determine the best installation location for the proposed pipeline to the village.
The assessment concluded with the group determining that, due to the elevation and typography of the land, a gravity flow system with three access tanks will be considered for the next phase of the project.
“As this was solely an assessment trip, no implementation designs were put in place as we wanted to ensure we collected enough data prior to making definitive changes,” said Alexis Zini, WVUEWB vice president and chemical engineering major from Morgantown. “Over the coming weeks this data will be useful for determining the next steps for the project.”
In between analyzing the collected data and designing the proposed water system throughout the school year, the students will also work to provide relief to the villagers from campus.
During the trip students had the opportunity to spend time getting to know the locals, many of whom were children who were wearing torn and tattered scraps of clothing.
“Most of the children had only a single article of clothing that was ripped and dirty,” said King. “Many of them had only one loose shirt hanging on by just thin pieces of fabric from their bodies with no pants or vice versa.”
While in Uganda the students donated many of the supplies they had on hand to the locals but knew they wanted to do more. When they returned to Morgantown, WVUEWB began planning a series of clothing drives on campus in order to send care packages overseas.
The organization will begin accepting clothing donations through their new initiative later this fall.
“The primary take away from the project was not what the community taught us but the work that is left to be done for the community,” said Zini. “This is not a time for feel good sentiment but a time for action and that is the primary focus of our team.”
WVUEWB plans to return to Uganda in August 2018, when they will begin working with the locals to prepare the landscape for the installation of a water filtration system and pipeline. Students will also be tasked with teaching educational sessions on water pollution, testing and treatment to locals.
“Clean water truly is the foundation for health, sustainable economies and equality,” said King. “By improving the water quality and accessibility in Kabughabugha the standard of living can increase significantly.”
The project is expected to be completed by the summer of 2021.