As part of an Active Citizen Scholarship grant from Tisch College and an on-going Engineers Without Borders project through the Greater Austin Chapter, I traveled with a team to the Central Andes in Peru for an assessment and education trip. Our team hosted two workshops open to the community to engage members on water use and sanitation in the region. We used activities like three-pile sorting and pocket diagrams to solicit opinions on water and start an open dialogue within the group. Participants also filled out a survey, mapped the community water resources, and engaged in focus group discussion.
Our other task on the trip was to assess the feasibility of reusing wastewater for irrigation of a community land. We had meetings with the local mayor, engineer, and community board of directors on how best to move forward with the project and who the active parties in the project would be, and have determined that significant work needs to be done to improve the effluent of the treatment plant before pursuing it as an irrigation source. We have moved forward on locating springs as an alternate water source and conducted biological samples, which show low levels of fecal coliform and e.coli. Our next steps are to present these springs to the community for approval and sign Memorandum of Understandings (MOU) with the community and municipal government defining our roles in the project. We plan to educate the community on sanitation and wastewater, create an operations manual and schedule for the treatment plant, and build infrastructure to provide irrigation water to the community land.
From this point, we focus on education and writing grants to fund the infrastructure improvements to the treatment plant and for the irrigation system. We’ll return in January for a follow up trip!