This summer a travel team consisting of four Princeton University students, one Dominican translator, and two technical mentors spent 17 days in the Dominican Republic assessing various aspects of our partner community: El Cajuil. The primary activities undertaken were as follows: water testing, mapping of the pipeline, and conducting a community wide census. Water testing was completed at various locations throughout the existing water system to determine what forms of contamination were present. Through laboratory biological testing and at home chemical testing, we found that the only contamination present that posed a risk to health was fecal coliform. The existing pipeline was mapped with the use of a handheld GPS and a GPS station. The handheld unit was used a majority of the time, including walking the distribution system in the community, and when following the supply pipeline in the mountains. The stationary unit was used for a handful of points where precise elevation was necessary. We now have a complete map of the pipeline path which includes all pertinent elevation and sizing data. An additional aspect of this task was finding a secondary source of water in the mountains. With the help of the community, we were able to locate a spring that appears to be a viable option for adding water to the system and to map a potential route for a pipeline from the source to the existing pipeline. Our final task was a community census. This was completed by walking house to house and asking a pre-determined list of questions regarding household demographics and water use patterns. Through this we were able to determine roughly how much water the community needs, how many people are in the community, and how much growth is to be expected in the coming years. All information that was collected by the team was reinforced and augmented with information from meetings held with the local water committee.
As a result of our data collection and preliminary calculations, it appears that the primary problem of El Cajuil is a lack of a proper distribution system. There appears to be enough water collecting in the primary tank to fulfill the community’s needs. However, the distribution of that water to households throughout the community is the limiting factor, as is shown by the overflow of water from the primary tank almost every morning. In order to fix this solution, the team will begin designing multiple additions to the system, including: control valves (to reduce the loss of water from the tanks), water meters (to monitor the use of water and naturally encourage a decrease in the overuse of water), an automatic chlorination system (to adequately remove harmful pathogens), an additional collection tank (to increase storage capacity and increase mid-system water pressure), a new transmission line (to increase water flow in the system). Adding a secondary source will likely be a project for after the system is improved, as adding more water now would likely not help the problem, but would just increase the amount of water wasted. Our proposed solution will also include a significant education factor, as the community will need to re-learn how to use and conserve water so that the system can function properly, as well as learn about the improvements that we put in so that they can properly maintain the new components.