Unit Affiliation: Columbia Engineering
The Columbia University student chapter of Engineers Without Borders -USA (CU-EWB) is working with the rapidly expanding communities of Sakyikrom and Obodan in rural Ghana to develop sustainable water management and sanitation plans for these communities. The basis of the plans represents a decided shift from current development techniques, in that a primary objective of the plans is to empower the community members to make the appropriate decisions for their own development. Water management and sanitation committees have been formed in both communities as decision-making bodies to control the direction of water and sanitation development in the communities. CU-EWB will act as technical and planning advisor to the committees in order to assist them with decision making. CU-EWB, as the objective of phase I, has spent the past year collecting necessary data in Sakyikrom to offer this assistance; data for Obodan was collected during a prior EWB project. These data include a detailed water availability and quality study, household surveys, topological and land use surveys, and geographical information systems (GIS) integration. These data will be useful in determining water and sanitation infrastructure interventions that can improve quality of life for community residents while also minimizing impact on the local environment.
OUTCOMES: CU-EWB was successful in collecting the necessary data to begin the planning process in Sakyikrom via the Phase I project. Through the water availability and quality study, the group found four primary sources of water available to the residents of the community of Sakyikrom: a pumped water distribution system provided by the Ghana Water Company, two separate aquifers (one shallow aquifer in the soil and one deep aquifer in the fractured granite bedrock), the nearby Densu River, and rainwater harvesting especially during the two raining seasons of the year. CU-EWB also evaluated the quality of these sources through both in-situ and laboratory testing, and used this information in weighing the advantages and disadvantages of using each source in the communities. CU-EWB also conducted household surveys in approximately 10% of the residences. The household surveys produced valuable results in gauging the water management and sanitation practices of the community members. This information is important in not only making a correlation between water and sanitation practices and public health, but also in establishing a baseline for measurement of success of the plan. Finally, CU-EWB performed a physical survey of the topography and land use characteristics in Sakyikrom using global positioning system (GPS) technology. The data from this physical survey was then integrated into a detailed GIS database provided by the Geophysical Survey Department of Ghana.
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