Engineers Without Borders (EWB) at the University of Maine is embarking on its second assessment trip to the community of El Descanso, Ecuador this December. According to their page on the University of Maine website, EWB is a student-led branch of a national, non-profit organization called Engineers Without Borders USA, whose mission is to “build a better world by conducting engineering projects around the globe.”
Through the club’s work, they hope to eliminate the lack of basic necessities in poor communities to enhance their quality of life. EWB completed its first project in 2013, the implementation of a septic system for a community in Dulce Vivir, Honduras. A septic system is an underground water treatment system that filters clean water. The project spanned five years and cost over $50,000.
In May of 2016, EWB sent four students to the community of El Descanso, Ecuador. The group analyzed and studied the community and its surrounding water areas, brainstorming ideas for a future clean, year-round water supply. The group consisted of four engineering students including Maeve Carlson, Nat Midura, Jack Pacent and Samantha Anderson. The group has been working hard on a system for the community and is extremely enthusiastic about returning to the community in December.
El Descanso is a 120-person community located 30 miles from the Ecuadorian coast. The community consists of mostly subsistence farmers who are economically impoverished and often lacking in water supply in their dry season. This forces a cease in bathing and other sanitation practices to save drinking water, typically lasting 3-5 days at a time. The springs that El Descanso uses for its water has a refill rate that is too low to sustain its community.
During the assessment trip in May of 2016, Engineers Without Borders investigated additional water sources in the area for the community. In December, EWB hopes to implement water sources and systems that can effectively sustain the community of El Descanso year-round. They expect the project to improve the health, availability and economic situation of the community.
Interested individuals are encouraged to visit EWB’s website at umaine.edu/ewb or attend their weekly meetings Tuesday evenings at 7 p.m. in the Innovation Center.