This One's for the Techies...

When I first arrived in Dorma, the first thing that struck me was its incredible beauty. Mountains surrounded me in the distance while lush greenery extends as far as the eye can see. Yet this beauty is marred by a population that survives on less than a dollar per person per day and struggles to meet its basic needs such as drinking water. The issue of drinking water in Dorma and its surrounding areas is very serious because for almost six months out of the year when the wells run dry. During this period of time, the residents are forced to go to nearby swamps which are rife in bacteria, potentially leading to serious and life-threatening medical conditions.

Through our interviews, the village agreed that the most serious problem facing their community is the lack of access to a clean, reliable source of water. As engineers, this is one problem that we are suited to alleviate. So, throughout the last week and a half, we and our mentor have conducted a variety of technical tests in order to determine the best way to address this issue. One of the major tasks we have completed is a site survey on potential well sites with a technician from the Ministry of Water Supply and Energy. We have also obtained community input on where they would like to have the well.

Additionally, we have surveyed the village’s existing water sources by collecting information such as depth measurements, chemical data and biological counts. With this technical data, we now have a clear picture about the current situation of Dorma’s drinking water supply. The results we have obtained highlight additional problems in the wells drying during the dry season. Although the main wells in the town and the amputee camp passed all biological and chemical tests, many of the private wells and surface water sources throughout town did not. These sources all had high counts of coliform bacteria because they were often built in poor locations and are unlined so runoff from latrines and houses can easily contaminate the water. Looking ahead, any project we do must supply enough water so that the village does not use these private wells or the swamp as sources of drinking water.

As of now, the future of this project can take a few different paths. The first and least expensive path is that we could rehabilitate the two main wells in the town by deepening them, hopefully resulting in a year-round water supply. The second option is that we can build a new hand-dug well in the village which would both supplement their supply of water in the rainy season and serve as a supply of drinking water in the dry season. Finally, the third option is to build a borehole well, which can almost certainly supply water year-round but is very expensive. The direction we take with this project ultimately will depend on financial considerations, which option is most likely to succeed in supplying water year-round, and long-term sustainability.

As we soon are about to leave Dorma and the Kono region, it is my hope that one year from now I will be once again returning to this beautiful place on Earth. However, I hope that I will be leaving this place in a better condition than I found it.

Benjamin Liu ‘15


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