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USC's Engineers Without Borders Heads to Honduras

March 09, 2007 — La Estanzuela, Honduras may not be top on many students’ lists of places to spend spring break, but it is for members of the Viterbi School’s Engineers Without Borders.

Honduras H2O project manager Alex John looks through medical supplies, which will be donated to a clinic near La Estanzuela during the group's trip. 

The group will be traveling to Central America March 11-16 as part of a project called "Honduras H2O," which will help a small town in the La Paz district create a blueprint for piped-in water and a treatment plant. The proposal  will eventually bring running water to residents of La Estanzuela and other villages nearby.

Students Nate Houk, Kyle Siegal, Chris Roth, Alex John, Liana Ching, Gina Erazo, Allie Anderson, Lucy Hoag and Meghan Gray will spend the week performing a preliminary site assessment for the town, which doesn't have electricity either. 

The lack of electricity makes the propopsal to build a water and sanitation station doubly challenging, but not insurmountable, the students explained.  Engineers think a water ram pump could serve as an alternative power source for the plant.  The pump would be used to harness the energy of a nearby waterfall and move the water more than 100 meters (330 feet) in elevation and 1.4 kilometers (0.87 mile) in distance to a storage tank near La Estanzuela and other neighboring communities. If that system proves feasible, the water could then be purified using sustainable and environmentally friendly treatment methods.

“We will be speaking extensively with the villagers, taking copious GPS [global positioning system] and surveying measurements, performing water cleanliness tests, and determining the characteristics of the river and the waterfall that will serve as the source of

Waterfall near La Estanzuela, Honduras, which will become the source of drinking water for residents once a new pipleline and treatment plant are built.
fresh water for this town,” said Honduras H2O project manager Alex John. “The goal of this trip will be to come up with a preliminary plan, with the eventual goal of implementing a sustainable water distribution and sanitation station.” 

The project was suggested to the students by a Peace Corps volunteer currently stationed in the neighboring town of Marcala, La Paz, according to Nate Houk, president of the USC chapter of Engineers Without Borders. The group plans to coordinate its efforts with the Peace Corps volunteer once they arrive.

The students will also deliver two large duffle bags of medical supplies to a clinic near La Estanzuela.  The medical supplies, mainly single-use items but no drugs or dangerous items, were donated by Knightsbridge International, a non-governmental organization, and the Rotary Club of Century City.

Look for photographs of the trip at USC's Engineers Without Borders website.  More information about "Honduras H2O" and the USC chapter of Engineers Without Borders is available at the same site.