Colorado State University Engineering Students to Volunteer for Water Project in El Salvador

Student engineers from Colorado State University returned to El Salvador on Friday to work on the next phase of a project that could eventually bring a stable water supply to a 1,200-person rural village.

Nine students and two mentors, part of the Colorado State chapter of Engineers Without Borders, will spend about 10 days on the project in La Laguneta, about 60 miles southeast of the capital city of San Salvador.

The goal of this trip is to investigate – and possibly choose – the most efficient method of getting water to the village by drilling more shallow wells or by pumping water from a productive well in a nearby town, said Fred Marinelli, senior water resources engineer for Telesto Solutions Inc. in Fort Collins and a Colorado State alumnus.

Marinelli and Dan Hart with Natural Resources Consulting Engineers Inc., both affiliate faculty members at Colorado State, will serve as professional mentors on the trip.

Brian Bledsoe, assistant professor of civil engineering, is also participating in the El Salvador project as the chapter’s faculty mentor.

"We want to maintain a long-term relationship with the villages down there and really learn from the projects," Bledsoe said. "There are a lot of these things that go in without much follow-up – not only the technical aspects, but the social implications."

Colorado State student Gabriel Miller, president of Colorado State’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders, already has a taste for international travel: He has lived in Egypt, Ghana and Nicaragua as a result of his father’s U.S. government-funded work helping small farmers.

"It’s wonderful to know that, as a student, you can really make a difference in some people’s lives and put our engineering knowledge to practical use," Miller said. "Traveling around the world has greatly broadened my perspective on life and left me with a passion for trying to help people in developing countries who are living without basic necessities. I hope to work internationally once I graduate."

People in La Laguneta live for six months without a local source of water, often walking more than two miles to obtain water. During the dry period, each family has access to about 10 gallons of water per day. An American household, by comparison, may use 60 to 80 gallons of water each day.

The Colorado State chapter of Engineers Without Borders has been involved in several projects around the world, from providing clean drinking water in Purulia, India, to improving the fuel efficiency of cook stoves in Nepal. The non-profit organization was created in 2000 to help developing areas worldwide with engineering needs such as the design and construction of water, wastewater, sanitation, energy and shelter systems. Students learn about all aspects of engineering projects: social, economic, environmental, political, ethical and cultural.

Colorado State students won’t actually build a water project in El Salvador – they’ll publish a detailed report for government officials and non-governmental organizations that would be responsible for following through on any proposal, Bledsoe said. The students would eventually return for a follow-up assessment of the project and its long-term sustainability, he said.

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