Water Distribution, Porvenir, El Salvador

Meets at 9:00 pm Wednesday nights in Anderson 208

Description of Project:  

Tufts Engineers Without Borders El Salvador is working with Porvenir, a community of about 120 people in La Libertad, to increase the quantity of available water. Currently, the potable water supply in Porvenir comes from spring boxes, a shallow well, and rainwater harvesting. This system has inadequate dry season flows, requires community members to walk long distances to collect water, and is vulnerable to bacterial contamination. EWB-Tufts, in partnership with a local NGO and the Porvenir Association for Community Development, is proposing improvements to the existing components and developing designs for additional components that will increase the capacity, convenience and safety of the potable water system. EWB Tufts is currently focusing on a spring box known as Domingo’s spring box, located at the edge of the river. There is a significant leak from the same spring source coming out of a rock to the left of the existing spring box. The group is currently working on designs to capture this water, since flow rate calculations indicate that it could at least double the community’s water supply.


Winter 2009: EWB-Tufts was introduced to the community by the NGO Epilogos Charities to answer a need for improved potable water infrastructure. The initial assessment included a characterization of the existing water sources, a preliminary health survey, and a topographic survey. During weekly meetings at Tufts, members of the El Salvador EWB group presented research to each other about the merits of different proposals for system improvements. It was decided that a professionally-drilled well would be the best option for providing clean water throughout the year.

Summer 2009: EWB-Tufts visited Porvenir again and continued the assessment. We met with civil engineer from a Salvadoran well-drilling company to discuss the feasibility and costs associated with drilling a well. We received advice on the proper organization of a community to develop a water system by ACUA, a Salvadoran water development NGO. EWB-Tufts performed research on the property rights of the residents of Porvenir and learned about “Green Zones” where public water supplies can be placed. Through the example of a nearby community with a failed well that was recently installed by an American organization, we learned of the consequences of inadequate support for local water system operators.

Spring 2010: In March another Tufts team traveled to Porvenir to assess viable options for improving water quality and quantity, to complete health surveys, and to further develop a relationship with and an understanding of the community. During this trip, water from each drinking source (two spring-boxes and a well), as well as from some household storage containers, were tested for contamination. Additionally, the team gathered information of Porvenir’s past experience with water distribution and assessed for the technical and geographic viability of future water distribution and filtration options. Some viable options seem to be a piping system from an existing water source to a central location and the creation of a new spring box along the river bank. The team also formed relationships with a large landowner of Porvenir, who is hoping to work with Tufts EWB to increase living standards in the community, and the owner of a local hardware store, who helped us to understand which construction materials were available locally. He also pledged to work with us in the future should we need construction advice. Also, surveys were completed at each household in order to gather information of community members’ health, access to healthcare, water use, sanitary habits, and economic status. Additionally, community meetings were held to discuss the priorities of Porvenir and their expectations of a relationship with Tufts. They communicated to the team that they would be grateful for and willing to work on any project that is decided upon, and that they were excited for future work. The travel team left El Salvador with the resources, contacts, and information that would help in determining the path of the project. Since, the entire group has decided upon short-, mid-, and long-term goals for our project, and is excited to continue on.

Fall 2011: The El Salvador group is excited to work with its new and returning members this fall. We’re currently preparing for our January 2012 implementation trip. We’re planning on constructing a new storage tank to which we can pipe excess water from the existing spring box. This is a great project for our group, as it allows all of our group members to contribute with their particular skills and backgrounds.

Winter 2012: In January, 2012 a Tufts team visited Porvenir to conduct a detailed assessment of the various options. They did extensive flow rate testing on a leak they found near Domingo’s spring box, and determined the flow to be approximately 3000 liters per day. They also did land surveying, soil testing, force calculations, and community surveys of water needs in order to have all necessary data to dive into the design phase of the project. The Tufts team held several meetings with community members, including a Women’s Workshop and a Kid’s Camp. They also reinforced their positive relationship with Mike and Suzy from EPILOGOS, the NGO that EWB-Tufts works with. The team also visited several other communities to get a sense of possible direction the project could go after completing their work in Porvenir.

Click here to read our travel blog from our January 2012 Assessment Trip:



Trip Reports:

For more detailed information about each of our trips, including health survey results, water quality results, and construction diagrams and calculations, please feel free to download any of our trip reports.

January 2009 Porvenir Trip Report

July 2009 Porvenir Trip Report

March 2010 Porvenir Trip Report


If you have any questions about our project please feel free to contact Jesse Cohen (Jesse.Cohen@tufts.edu),  Catherine Madden (catherine.madden@tufts.edu), or Ariel Branz (Ariel.Branz@tufts.edu).