'Engineers Without Borders' Installs Water System In Belize

Published: Sept. 13, 2001

Note: The San Pablo water system and other projects of Engineers Without Borders will be described in a one-hour presentation at 6 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 20, in the Boulder Creek Meeting Room, Boulder Public Library. "Engineers Without Borders: Building a Better World One Project at a Time," is free and open to the public.

A University of Colorado at Boulder faculty and student group has successfully installed a water system in a small Belize village, bringing water for drinking and irrigation to 250 Mayan Indians.

Funded by $2,500 in private donations and about $12,000 in small university grants, the San Pablo water project represents the first initiative by the newly formed non-profit group, "Engineers Without Borders."

Led by civil engineering Professor Bernard Amadei, with assistance from local industry representative Denis Walsh, several undergraduate engineering students designed and built an inexpensive ram pump system, which is delivering water to the village from a nearby river. The water system means that the village's young children no longer have to haul water in buckets up a steep hill from the river.

In May 2001, Amadei led a group of eight undergraduate students from the department of civil, environmental and architectural engineering, and three community members, to the jungle of Belize to work with the villagers in installing the system. The field work consisted of several components: construction of a small concrete dam, water intake structure and reinforced cement drive tank; installation of about 3,000 feet of PVC pipe, and installation of a pump and storage tank.

Amadei founded Engineers Without Borders as a non-profit organization to "build a better world one project at a time." The goals of the organization include helping various communities in the developing world by providing appropriate, sustainable technology and giving students direct, hands-on experience with civil engineering in developing countries.

"We want to make students realize that engineering projects are more than just plain technology, and that there are strong socio-economic components that often are not mentioned in engineering education," Amadei said. "This is also engineering with a heart."

Modeled after the international humanitarian group, "Doctors Without Borders," the group plans to install a water filtration system along with submersible generators to deliver electricity to San Pablo as phase II of the Belize project. Help to another Mayan village will start in fall 2001. The group also is beginning the design of a photovoltaic-driven water system for the village of Zambougou in Mali, Africa, and plans to launch projects in Vietnam, Haiti and Peru this academic year.

For more information, visit http://ewob.colorado.edu, or contact Professor Bernard Amadei at (303) 492-7734.