College of Engineering

UMaine EWB Making a Difference

This December, Engineers Without Borders (EWB) UMaine embarks on a second assessment trip to the community of El Descanso, Ecuador! This trip lays the groundwork for the development of a sustainable water supply system. The 120-person community resides about 30 miles from the Ecuadorian coast, and has been lucky enough to miss most of the devastation that earthquakes have caused in Ecuador. Much of the community consists of subsistence farmers who are food rich, but economically impoverished and often lacking in water supply.

In May of 2016, EWB UMaine sent a group of four students on an initial visit to the community. The first night there, Abraham, a leader in the community spearheading this project, called the team’s presence the “crystallization of a dream.” The hospitality this community showed our travel members was incredibly selfless and genuine. Former and continuing travel team members, Maeve Carlson and Nat Midura, along with two new team members, Jack Pacent and Samantha Anderson, are excited to travel on another assessment trip, continuing to represent a helping hand from UMaine.

The main goal for El Descanso is to obtain a clean, year round water supply. Currently, the community lacks the water to sustain them in the dry season. Ceasing to bathe or conduct sanitation practices to save drinking water is a common occurrence that can last between 3-5 days at a time during the dry season, which makes up 3 months of the year. This is because the springs that the community uses have too low of a refill rate. During the previous assessment trip, the team investigated additional sources for water collection. This coming trip during the dry season will hopefully yield quantifiable data as to which sources can effectively sustain the community. This project will improve the health, time availability, and economic situation of El Descanso citizens.

EWB UMaine’s first project, completed in 2013, was a large, over $50,000 excursion that spanned the course of five years, and resulted in the implementation of a septic system for a community in Dulce Vivir, Honduras. The current project in El Descanso is expected to be of smaller size, but of course, no less importance.

EWB UMaine is a student led branch of the national, non-profit organization, EWB USA, whose mission is to build a better world by conducting engineering projects around the globe.  Through the club’s work, they hope to eliminate the lack of basic needs for communities both internationally and locally, so people living in these locations can attain a higher quality of life.

To learn more about EWB UMaine’s projects, visit their website: umaine.edu/ewb, or their weekly meetings Tuesday in the Innovation Center at 7:00pm! And please like them on Facebook (Engineers Without Borders University of Maine Chapter) to stay up to date.