Guatemala – Water Distribution Projects

waterheads       SpringBox-overview

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee student chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB@UWM) works in coordination with EWB-USA, a non-profit humanitarian organization established to improve the quality of life in developing communities.  Each sustainable engineering project is designed and implemented by partnerships between local and international groups, individuals, professionals and students.  This process trains students to be socially responsible engineers and global citizens.

UW-Milwaukee’s Student Chapter of Engineers Without Borders started with a dream in 2007.  Four students and 1 mentor traveled to Nebaj, Guatemala to visit with Lynn Roberts, founder of Guatemalan Non-Profit, Agua Para la Salud, to acquire data for 7 sites in need of a drinking water purification distribution project in the Ixil Communities of Guatemala.  We did land surveying for pipe mapping, water quality testing, and community needs discussions that also included what we offer and require from villages.  After returning home and looking at all 7 systems, we decided to build Phase I of Quejchip’s gravity-fed water distribution system the following year and have been construction and assessing a new project every year since.

2008 & 2009: Quejchip Phase I included a spring box, distribution tank, and conduction line that was completed in 2008, Phase II included pipeline that allowed home distribution to individual tap stands, as well as latrines and a hand-washing station for the school was completed in 2009.

2010: La Libertad’s gravity-fed water distribution system was constructed with spring box, distribution tank, conduction line, and home distribution tap stands.

2011 & 2012: The construction of spring boxes, distribution tanks, and surveying of a 5-mile conduction line for Vitostix and Vijolom III, and in 2012 the 5-mile combined conduction line was constructed and glued so that both communities had water flowing to their homes.  Vitostix and Vijolom III had home distribution already in place before 2011, but the source water was insufficient leaving the villages dry 6 months of the year.

2013: We completed the spring box, pump house, electric cabin, conduction line, 2 distribution tanks, and home distribution pipeline for a pump-fed system for Visiban.  This system will be up and running as soon as the government delivers the promised electrical line which as of August 2014 is promised to start by September 2014.

2014: Another example of 3 groups working successfully together: San Miguelito, La Asociacion de la Region Ixil, and EWB@UWM to construct a gravity-fed water system just down the road from Visiban.  They have been asking for many years, but is very remote and difficult to travel to.  The project was completed in January 2014 with a spring box, conveyance line, chlorinator, distribution tank, and two main distribution lines bringing a faucet to all 44 homes.

2015: San Pedro Secal is a village with 39 homes in need of a gravity-fed water distribution system.  The new Sustainable Engineering Course at UWM has started the hydraulic analysis and structures design and completed by finals in May 2015.  Once the funds were raised, we were ready to travel and construct in January 2016.

2016: Xobalpé is a village close to a main road and has 34 homes that have not yet received water.  We are currently working on the design, drawings, and bill of materials to get started constructing in January 2017.

In 2011 we were told of Lynn Robert’s coming retirement and also about his head mason, Diego Ramirez’s new Guatemalan non-profit group, La Asociación de Comités Comunitarios Medio Ambiental de la Región Ixil (ACCMARI).  ACCMARI is a group that brings together 50+ community leaders every 6-months to prioritize engineering needs in the Ixil Region of Guatemala.  These meetings open communication between communities that allow for collaboration and cooperation and decrease competition for projects.  The respective leaders gain full understanding of needs of the area and make agreements with each other of whose projects will be proposed this year, and whose is coming next year.  This lowers hostility between villages and cuts violence and destruction of projects in the area.

If you have any specific questions regarding projects, or want to get involved with funding opportunities, please let me know!  You can also visit UW-Milwaukee’s Student Chapter of Engineers Without Borders website: or their blog at

2008-06-19 09.18.31   2008-06-20 14.02.11

544799_3755997817726_2021639858_n   IMG_1106  




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s