Creative Inquiry

Project Spotlights

The Cange Change: Developing a New Water System in Haiti

Five thousand children a day or 3.5 million people a year - that's the number of lives that could be saved if the whole world had clean water. Here in America this basic necessity is often taken for granted, but in places like Haiti, easy access to water isn't guaranteed. Haiti, a nation recently afflicted by natural disasters and disease outbreaks, ranks among the lowest for clean water availability. Only 46 percent of this island nation's population has access to potable water. Determined to make a difference, Creative Inquiry students and Clemson Engineers for Developing Countries (CEDC) banded together to address this serious situation.

The project team is designing and building water-delivery systems in rural areas of Haiti, starting with the town of Cange. Faculty adviser and professor of Civil Engineering Lance Bell says, "The women are hauling water up an 800 foot incline with buckets on their heads. And that's pretty much what they do all day long just to sustain themselves." Clemson sent six delegations of students to survey for the design and to interact with the locals.

The town of Cange had an outdated water system that was built for a maximum of 2,000 residents, but with a population of 8,000 and no water treatment center, its water system was swimming with harmful pathogens. Not only did the team consider how to create a facility with enough power to pump water to and throughout the city, they devised a way to filter and purify the water. A combination of UV disinfection and cartridge filtration has made the water fresher than ever. Physicians in Cange say that the clean water has cut their patient load in half.

The people of Haiti have had a real impact on the lives' of the students. With a little bit of teamwork and a lot of engineering knowledge, the team completed a project that touches the lives of many Haitians. The people they helped were deeply thankful, but the students also gained something else: a true, lasting appreciation of other cultures.

Members of this student-led team worked with private engineering firms and raised almost $10,000 to fund the project. For this hard work and ingenuity, the CEDC received the prestigious Commission on Higher Education Service Learning Award, an annual honor given to a public four-year college for "a meaningful service learning opportunity" that incorporates academic learning with service to the community.

During the summer of 2012, six team members were able to travel to Haiti with their faculty adviser and an industry adviser to dedicate the new water system they designed and created. "This week is going to be a myriad of ceremonies, dedicating things from cisterns to the pump house and all the different technologies that are supplying water to Cange," said Jennifer Ogle, the team's adviser from the civil engineering department.

The final project in Cange included nine fountains and showers, four cisterns with a total capacity of 200,000 gallons and pumping system that can deliver 144,000 gallons of water a day. This water is able to travel up an elevation of 1,100 feet through nearly two miles of pipelines.

Clemson Engineers for Developing Countries have taken this impressive project to the next level: starting to design and build housing and other infrastructures throughout Haiti. And they don't plan on stopping there. As long as there are worldwide needs and the will to help, the efforts of the CEDC will span the globe.

By: Thomas Larrew (Decipher Issue 1, Fall 2012)