El Cedro

Since completing the pipeline in La Victoria, the team has begun a new project in the nearby town of El Cedro, also in Las Lajas. There is already a pipeline running from a nearby spring, but it needs significant maintenance to support the needs of the community. There are sections that are cracking due to UV and weather exposure, hanging without support structure, and water tanks that sit unused.

The team has completed its first assessment trip and is reviewing the gathered data. Various tasks are being considered to address the problem: repairing the pipeline, creating a gray water filtration system, and/or establishing a robust sanitation system for the current water supply. The team is working on finding where the source of contamination is and a way to make sure this does not happen in the future. The students are brainstorming several engineering structures that will work best for the pipeline as it runs through many different types of terrain and obstacles in the rain forest.

Community Needs

Las Lajas is a county located in the southeastern part of Ecuador in the province of El Oro. Approximately 5,000 people live in Las Lajas with about 1,500 in La Victoria. Most are farmers, and they mainly produce coffee. The climate is hot and dry, and rainfall can be unreliable and insufficient.

The Association of Organic Coffee Producers of Las Lajas (ACOLL) wanted to establish a water collection, storage, and distribution system to stabilize their water supply and optimize cultivation in every season. In this project, EWB-USC designed and oversaw construction of a system to improve irrigation for the community.

The pipeline has three farms it feeds water to: the technical high school, the reforestation site controlled by the municipality, and the land ACOLL farms on. The high school has an agriculture program in which students take care of a coffee nursery that community members and ACOLL use to purchase their coffee plants. There are storage ponds designed and built by the community members at the high school and the reforestation site.

The community provided machinery and labor for the construction process. Their main concern is about the long-term stability of the system, so establishing a sense of ownership and ensuring good education about maintenance and repair are key aspects of the project. The chapter is committed to the Las Lajas project for a minimum of five years (beginning in 2012).

First Assessment Trip (January 2013)

This trip was our first introduction to La Victoria community, giving us a chance to build a relationship with them and also survey the local terrain with GPS to establish the best pipeline pathway. Based on this preliminary knowledge, we were able to begin designing an appropriate project.

Second Assessment Trip (May 2013)

After this trip, we better established communication and trust between our organization and the community. The design options were presented to the community stakeholders for their approval and input. The final pipeline path was traced so the community could begin digging trenches to lay the pipeline in. After this trip, the pipeline design was finalized and material suppliers were sought for project implementation.

Implementation Trip (May 2014)

The pipeline was constructed during this trip with the help of community stakeholders and the local high schoolers. The entrance siphon, cleanout structures and exit structures were built, and only some sections of pipeline to connect the structures was left unfinished. The La Victoria community members had constructed similar buried pipeline structures for their water distribution system so they finished the pipeline after this time.

Monitoring Trip (January 2015)

During this trip, the team established a pipeline monitoring board to check the water flow and regularly maintain the pipeline when necessary, such as opening the cleanout structures to get rid of gravel and leaves that may be blocking the pipe. The community is now completely in control of the pipeline. The team also spoke with stakeholders to see if there are any other community needs that could be turned into new EWB-USC project partnerships.

Rain Barrel Irrigation System for Honors Residence Hall Garden

A garden was built at the Honors Residence Hall at the University of South Carolina’s campus for students to grow their own fruit, vegetables and herbs. EWB-USC designed and built a rain barrel collection system that uses rainwater from the roof of the Honors Residence Hall to store water during dry months and irrigate plants in a sustainable way.

Mentoring LEGO FIRST Teams

We partner with two elementary schools in the Irmo, SC area (northwest of Columbia). Engineering students from USC volunteer once a week to work with fifth-grade LEGO FIRST teams, helping them with design, programming, and presentation for the regional competition in December.

Rain Water Drinking Fountain

EWB-USC partnered with Sustainable Carolina at the University of South Carolina to design and build a water filter that uses water runoff from the roof of West Quad, a dorm on campus, to supply a sustainable drinking fountain. After filtration, this water fountain is expected to have better water quality than other drinking fountains on campus. This water fountain is already completely functional and ready for use after just one semester thanks in part to EWB-USC’s local projects team.

Do you have a local project idea for EWB-USC? Feel free to send us a message with your idea.