Despite a steady and drenching rain, which prevented them from applying concrete, students from Missouri University of Science and Technology recently had a trial run at building a water-holding tank. It was a muddy, yet valuable experience they’ll remember as they travel May 19 to the tiny, remote community of Tacachia, Bolivia.
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Located in a steep valley south of La Paz, the village is nearly inaccessible to the city. In 2008, S&T’s Engineers Without Borders site assessment team visited with community leaders and learned of their concerns with the town’s reliance on La Paz for drinking water as well as the deteriorating road conditions on the south side of the Rio Palca river. Both of these issues are compounded during Bolivia’s dry season.
On this trip, the EWB team plans to implement multiple projects, including constructing a new ferro-cement tank to store potable water. Ferro-cement structures are typically strong and inexpensive to build, and made from a wire-reinforced mixture of sand, water and cement.
“The current rain water collection system is very rudimentary,” says Tom Scroggin of Rolla, Mo., a senior in mining engineering. “This tank should increase the potable water storage of the community by almost double, and should supply the community with more water during periods of drought where water is not available. Constant access to potable drinking water will likely decrease health risks and result in a higher quality of life.”
The Missouri S&T team also plans to install an irrigation pumping and distribution system using hydraulic ram pumps, which will use zero electricity to transport water from a lower irrigation canal 150 feet up in elevation to an upper irrigation canal. The system is designed to increase the village’s agricultural output.
“A PVC piping network will then distribute irrigation water to each crop in the upper half of the community to use as needed,” says Scroggin, the project’s coordinator.
In addition, the EWB team will continue to assess the feasibility of constructing a 600-foot-long pedestrian footbridge across the Rio Palca river to provide access to health and educational facilities on the opposing riverbed during the rainy season.
Meanwhile, another S&T EWB team of 12 students will be in Erquis Sud, Bolivia, near the city of Tarija, constructing a sustainable water supply. They plan to drill a well and build a water-holding tank during their two-week trip.
Students traveling to Tacachia, Bolivia, include:
The team will return to Missouri on May 30.