A project profile: the team, the community, and our objectives

The Princeton team:
Alex Byrnes (’18), Corinne Lowe (’17), Eric Qiu (’18), and Kristy Yeung (’18)

Our mentors:
Ray Behrens (our expert surveyor) and Nolan Perreira (our expert in water testing and systems).

The community:
El Cajuil is a 600 person community in the Dajabon Province of the Dominican Republic along the Haitain border. We work most directly with the Maximiliano Vargas Comite de Acueducto (the water committee responsible for maintaining their current water distribution system).

The situation:
With a water distribution system built over two decades ago when the community was less than half its current size by Save the Children (our partner NGO), El Cajuil is no longer capable of providing households with sufficient water to meet their drinking, cooking, and cleaning needs. However, this is not for lack of effort. El Cajuil has, without any assistance, done a phenomenal job of maintaining and building upon its current distribution system, even reverse engineering a storage tank to build an additional one that would increase their storage capacity. The water committee has also devised a strategic plan for increasing water supply, feeding in a new pipeline from a new stream. However, they lack both the technical expertise and funds to accomplish such a project, and Save the Children no longer receives funding for this kind of infrastructure project. This is where we come in.

The statistics:
Based on a preliminary survey of the community, taken by going house by house, we have a strong sense of the community’s current access to water. While just under 40% report having sufficient access to water, 37% report they have very poor access. This means that these households receive anywhere from to a few hours of water a day to a few hours of water every three or four days (these are statistics we’re looking to more fully understand in this coming trip). Even then the flow rates are reported as being low. 13% of households receive no water from the system. 5% of households must obtain water from the water system of the neighboring city of Loma de Cabrera and 3% of households have had to devise their own supply lines to get the water they’re not receiving from the main line (the quality of these households’ water is suspect here). The situation for the remainder of households (about 4%) is unknown.

Generally, one portion of the community (that the original water distribution system was built to supply) receives ample water. But the newer sectors of town receive hardly any water. It is these sectors whose needs we seek to address.

The solution:
In accordance with El Cajuil’s wishes, we want to build an additional supply pipeline to meet El Cajuil’s full water demand, focusing specifically on the sectors that receive the least water. To do this, we anticipate we will also need to build an additional storage tank. Because El Cajuil has grown considerably in population in the past two decades, we will design our project with the intent of providing not only for the current community, but for a community that will continue to develop and expand. It is not yet clear whether additional filtration will be necessary – this will be contingent upon water testing done this summer. Finally, since long term sustainability is one of our primary values, we will provide training on how to use and maintain the system while also providing workshops on sustainable, safe water practices.

This summer’s task:
We are in the assessment phase. The tasks we’ll conduct and data we plan to collect from our trip is as follows. 1) Ground surveying. We will map out potential pipeline routes with sub-meter accuracy using advanced surveying equipment. 2) Water testing. We will test potential water sources and community members’ current water supply for E. Coli and fecal coliform contamination, phosphates and nitrates, dissolved solids, hardness, among other quality indicators. 3) We will conduct a community wide census asking individuals in each household what problems they face in their community, what their current access to water looks like, among other questions designed to gauge the viability of the intended project, the need for other potential projects, etc. 4) Conducting talks with community leaders. In order for the project to proceed, we need to form and strengthen agreements with the community. One essential component of EWB’s methodology is that communities must pay for 5% of project capital costs, which we need to work out in more detail this summer. 5) Reconnaissance of local resources and potential partners. This will include taking inventories of local hardware stores and forging new relationships with government and private organizations that can help us with implementation next year.

Beyond that, it is our hope that we will walk away not only with the knowledge that our project is on track for implementation, but with a wealth of experiences that provide opportunities for personal growth and learning.

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