Clean Water Access, Shilongo Village, Mbale, Uganda

Meets 9:00 PM Tuesday nights in Anderson 211

Description of Project

Tufts EWB Uganda is the product of a partnership between Tufts EWB and the Foundation for Development of Needy Communities (FDNC), an NGO located in Mbale, Uganda. FDNC helped Tufts EWB to connect with the Shilongo Villager, a rural community of about 1000 people in Eastern Uganda. We have worked with this community to identify their greatest needs and how we can best apply sustainable engineering solutions to improve their quality of life.

Our goal is to provide the Shilongo Village in Mbale, Uganda with access to a supply of clean water that they can trust. The Village currently has no centralized water distribution. The community members walk to springs and wells that are spread throughout the community to draw their water. The village has eight natural springs and three drilled wells (or boreholes). Unfortunately, all of the springs produce groundwater that is contaminated with E.coli bacteria and is not safe for drinking. One of the boreholes is frequently broken and another produces brown, unpalatable water. This leaves only one borehole that produces clean, potable water.

This borehole, Shilongo borehole, is often plagued with long lines to collect water, especially during peak water collection times in the dry season. The women and children who collect the water end up wasting hours waiting to draw water. Our goal is to improve this water source and decrease the amount of time it takes to collect water. This reduction in wait time will allow community members to spend more time pursuing education and other productive endeavors. This improvement will also make the Shilongo borehole a more appealing water source and lead to a decrease in the use of contaminated springs.

Travel History

Summer 2010: In June, Tufts EWB made its first assessment trip in the Shilongo Village in Uganda. On this Tufts EWB met with local government officials, recorded GPS data, took water samples for testing, conducted health surveys, analyzed the soil profile, and measured flow rates of the streams. The group met with the leaders of Shilongo to discuss the direction of the project and receive feedback on the previous week’s activities. With the community’s help, the list of project options was narrowed down to four: water storage at the main borehole, water storage at one of the three main springs, rain catchment, and setting up the infrastructure for generating income via brick making. Several community members eloquently expressed their gratitude for the help and the work that Tufts. During the final week in Shilongo, Tufts EWB gathered as much pertinent information as possible about the potential projects. The group continued water flow rate testing and land surveying, and met with the community to assess their priorities. The community decided that water storage at the borehole was the most important need of the village. Thus, Tufts EWB decided to focus on providing water storage at the borehole for the people of Shilongo.

Summer 2011: In August, a group of five students and our professional mentor traveled to Uganda for a Tufts EWB implementation trip. A water storage tank along with a bicycle-driven pump attachment was put in place at the community’s main clean water source after a year of planning and designing. Throughout the building process the community members voiced their opinions on how adjust the designs to best fit their needs. With their help the team successfully implemented the system and the community took full ownership of the project. The team also performed a community health workshop with the children of Shilongo to teach the kids about clean water and health issues.

January 2012: Tufts EWB planned a monitoring trip to monitor the status of our implementation. We found that the community was not adequately utilizing the mechanical system we had implemented. While the children were in school and unable to pump the well, the women preferred the hand pump to the bicycle-driven pump. Our team spent most of the trip collaborating with the community to determine how the system could be further adapted to meet the needs of the community.

January 2013: After a year of planning and designing adapted pumping systems Tufts EWB sent a travel team to Shilongo to assess the feasibility of several designs and to continue building our relationship with the community and maintaining open and honest communication. With the community’s input the travel team decided to focus on investigating the possibility of bringing the electricity grid to the site and implementing an automated pumping system run by electricity.

January 2014: This January we plan to begin making our design a reality by repairing the storage tank built in 2011 in preparation for the pumping system. We will also conduct necessary research to refine our design and assure its sustainability. This includes a microbiological testing of the local water sources, community health surveys, part availability and pricing research and design meetings with the community. This infrastructure and research will allow the automated pump to be installed in a trip later in 2014.

Meeting Information

For the Fall 2013 semester we will be meeting on Tuesdays at 8:30 PM in Aidekman 313.  Drop by if you are interested in joining our group!

Contact Us

Feel free to contact the 2013-2014 project leaders with any questions:

Kevin Hebard and Peter Lewis
Members Page