Students, Engineers Help Bring Clean Water to El Salvador


CORVALLIS, Ore. – Students from the Oregon State University chapter of Engineers Without Borders are raising money, pooling their engineering expertise and collaborating with professional engineers to bring clean water to two isolated villages in El Salvador.

The OSU students have made two trips to the Salvadoran villages of El Naranjito and Las Mercedes, and are holding a benefit banquet on Friday, Oct. 6, to raise money for the project.

“Right now, the villagers have to walk long distances over steep, rough terrain to reach potable water sources,” said Kelly Wilson, an OSU sophomore from Aurora, Ore., who is studying chemical engineering and serves as secretary of Engineers Without Borders-OSU.

“This project is very exciting,” she said. “OSU students from various engineering disciplines work together to apply the skills we’re learning in the classroom to create a long-term, sustainable water treatment and distribution system for the people in this part of El Salvador.”

The El Salvador Ministry of Health has designated the municipality where the OSU project is located as one of grave concern due to the prevalence of undernourished children. Undernourishment is often a symptom of water-borne diarrheal diseases, Wilson said.

Last March, a team of three OSU students and an engineer who works for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality traveled to the area and established a relationship with the people of the community, evaluated the overall health of the community and developed necessary contacts for project implementation.

A second group of five students and two engineers from CH2M HILL recently returned from a mid-September trip, during which they performed a detailed assessment of the degree and type of water contamination and the viable treatment options.

So far, the project is a successful exercise in international collaboration.

“OSU students, faculty advisors and professional engineers are donating their time and technical expertise for assessment, design and construction, and the El Salvador community is donating labor, lodging and food,” Wilson said.

The professional engineers involved with the student group come from approximately 30 regional firms and organizations, including the City of Portland, Boeing, Brown and Caldwell, PacifiCorp, the Oregon Department of Transportation, and others.

“Through collaboration and innovation, these students are having a powerful impact on human life,” said Ron Adams, dean of engineering at OSU. “Many of our students pursue careers in engineering because they want to help make the world a better place – bring prosperity to others through innovation. This is an extraordinary example of that in action.”

The banquet to benefit the project starts Friday, Oct. 6, at 6 p.m. in the OSU Memorial Union Ballroom. The evening will feature Salvadoran cuisine, a silent auction of art pieces by local artists, live music, and a keynote address by OSU engineering professor and native Salvadoran Mario Magaña.

For more information and to reserve tickets, contact Wilson at wilsonke@onid.orst.edu, or go to http://groups.engr.oregonstate.edu/ewb/Banquet_Flyer.pdf