Addressing Issues of Water on Campus

Ruben Mamani Water Project Bolivia

As External Relations Coordinator at the UAC-CP, Rubén Mamani is responsible for a lot of tasks: supervising volunteers, hosting visitors, and helping UAC-CP students apply for scholarships–just to name a few. He’s also taken on the task of getting the College’s water system back on track.

The impressive system was built over a number of years by teams of students and faculty from Engineers Without Borders chapters at South Dakota State University and Fairfield University. While it was built with the engagement of UAC-CP staff, people have changed over time and on-going operation and maintenance has suffered.

Currently, water systems for both campuses are coming from direct mountain run-off, as filtration systems aren’t working as expected or haven’t been maintained as planned. Chlorine treatment regimens fell by the wayside. Fortunately, tap water is fed by relatively clean mountain springs, which allows people to boil and filter water to eliminate metals, toxins, bacteria and viruses. But heavy rains increase turbidity and clogs the catchment with debris (leaves, branches, etc.).

To address the issues with the water system, Rubén is working with South Dakota State University and Fairfield University, as well as local maintenance personnel and community members, to gather documents and various intellectual capital for longer-term solutions. A local community member and former UAC-CP staff, Donato Monroy, has been very helpful with understanding how the pipelines of the system are connected. He also shared potential solutions to current challenges.

Rubén also hopes to engage faculty and students from the UAC-CP Agronomy department to help with short term improvements to the system. It will create additional local sustainability to the understanding of the water system design and operation. It will also create more institutional ownership of an incredibly valuable resource. Discussions are underway with UAC-CP staff on some water testing protocols and data gathering.

Volunteers from South Dakota State University and Fairfield University plan to visit in August of 2019. They will gather data and tackle additional water system improvements, including plans to handle high volume and low volume water times of year more efficiently. They will also focus on getting the College to take ownership of the project, which is key to long-term sustainability.

“Given my training and experience, I consider that improving the UAC-CP water system project is a basic need and an important challenge,” said Rubén. “I’m especially excited about getting additional university students and faculty involved in oversight and operation.”

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