“Our parents had dreams of a project like this”
EWB-USA UMN designed a water distribution project in the community of Paraxaj, near the town of Comalapa, in the state of Chimaltenango. Paraxaj is a village of about 1200 people. A water distribution project was necessary for Paraxaj because they were unable to source water from their hand-dug wells during the region’s dry season. The project was completed in two phases, the first involved installation of infrastructure and six public-access tap stands, and in the second 160 private tap stands were installed.
The community of Paraxaj came to EWB-USA UMN in 2016, and presented the need for a more consistent water source. At the time, they sourced water from wells that ran dry and rainwater catchment. Data collected by the team suggested that 85% of the community was consuming contaminated water and 40% of the community lost all access to water during the region’s dry season.
EWB-USA UMN took its first trip to the community of Paraxaj in May 2017. Five students and one professional mentor traveled to Guatemala to gather technical data in the community. The team completed a topographic survey, measured the depth and water quality of the existing hand-dug wells, and conducted a census to gather the data necessary to design a system that would bring water to Paraxaj.
The Guatemala Project Team spent the 2017-18 school year designing what would become the basis for the water distribution system. The design included a 560-foot mechanically-drilled well, a 6,000L tank located at the top of the community, six public tap stands in central locations in the community, and 7,000 feet of PVC pipe for supply and main distribution lines. In August 2018, eight UMN students and four rotating mentors from the Guatemala Project travelled to implement the designs. EWB-USA UMN was also joined by two students and an additional mentor from the University of Minnesota – Duluth, who shadowed the team while starting their own student chapter in Duluth.
The project team continued to work on the second half of the Paraxaj project during the 2018-19 school year. The team would expand on the system already installed in August to bring water directly to households throughout the community. This would require over three miles of additional pipelines and 165 tap private stands. While the system was designed to be used via the centralized public tap stands during the school year, the community was not able to gain access to the electrical grid. Unfortunately, the system sat idle until the team traveled for the second phase of implementation in May 2019.
Ten UMN students and five rotating mentors traveled to Paraxaj for Phase 2 of implementation. In addition to constructing the second half of the system, the team secured an appointment with the local electricity company, who finally connected the well to its power source during the second week of the trip. The team was also able to train community members for future system maintenance and expansion, give a presentation to the women in the community regarding safe and sustainable use of the well water, visit past projects to monitor their impact on the communities, and visit potential partner communities.
The system was successfully tested in the closing days of the trip and the team left a short list of tasks for the community to complete. Paraxaj opened the system for public use a week later, on June 8th, 2019.
For this project, we work with our local NGO representatives, Long Way Home. Long Way Home has supported us during many projects in the past and present through assistance with translation, cultural knowledge, and communication with our partner communities. The success of the second phase rested heavily on their ability to have materials purchased and in-community when the travel team arrived, which kept the project on schedule. Their expertise is invaluable and we hope to maintain a productive relationship into the future.
Where We Are
For more information, contact:
Jacob Hermann at firstname.lastname@example.org or Dani Alfonzo at email@example.com
Guatemala Project Meetings are held every Thursday in Bruininks Hall 312 from 7-8:30 pm.