On August 10th, an eight-person team from the UMass Amherst Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Chapter travelled to Saviefe-Deme in Ghana to implement an inexpensive biosand water filter project. Saviefe-Deme is a small community in the Volta Region, along the southern part of Ghana, which houses a few hundred people. The EWB group tackled a big challenge during its August trip, to implement a low-maintenance and cost-effective strategy for bringing clean water to Saviefe-Deme.
A biosand filter is a simple water-treatment system adapted from traditional slow sand filters, which remove suspended solids and dangerous pathogens from water using physical and biological processes occurring in a sand column covered with biofilm.
The villagers in Saviefe-Deme have faced a water-scarcity issue for many years, sparking the involvement of the EWB. Last year, the EWB group worked to construct a rainwater catchment system to collect and store water at two of the school buildings. This year the focus was placed on clean water, in order to improve the overall health in the community.
Starting in September of 2017, the EWB group researched many options for increasing available clean water in the community. The team decided to pursue a biosand water filtration project featuring drinking-water filters that function by using a combination of sand, gravel, and micro-organisms in order to remove disease-causing pathogens from water. The filters are rather inexpensive and can be constructed using widely available materials.
Once in Ghana, the group worked for eight days to construct nine biosand filtration systems. While building the filters, the group also conducted water-quality testing and worked with a hydrogeologist to survey some of the water boreholes that are no longer in use in the community. The materials for an additional six filters were left behind to be constructed in the village, with the hope that trained community members will come together to complete the project.
The EWB travelling group consisted of seven UMass College of Engineering students and Dr. Wayne Bates, a faculty advisor and professor of civil engineering at WPI and principal engineer at Tighe and Bond. This year the project was managed by Sami Levalley (a senior in mechanical engineering) and Victoria Hennon (a senior in civil engineering). The other travelling group members were Michael Andrick (senior), Jon Aubin (sophomore), Ayele Ba (senior), Joshua McGee (sophomore), and Laura Townsend (sophomore).
Next year, the EWB Ghana group will be managed by Laura Townsend (a sophomore in mechanical engineering), Megha Shah (a junior in chemical engineering), and Michael Andrick (a senior in mechanical engineering).
For its next-year’s project, EWB Ghana plans to rehabilitate an existing water borehole within the Saviefe-Deme community. With clean water availability being the largest concern of the community, the group one day hopes to implement a clean-water-distribution system throughout the entire community. (August 2018)