In 2012, the Engineers Without Borders- Boston Professionals Chapter (EWB-BPC) partnered with Mkutani, Tanzania to find a solution to their lack of access to potable drinking water. Mkutani is a community of about 3,000 people located in Tanzania’s central Dodoma region. The isolated community experiences an extended annual dry season and its only source of water is the Mkutani River- a silty, salty, and highly-polluted river. Illness caused by waterborne bacteria is prevalent, and the mortality rate is especially high among children. An existing borehole had been drilled in 2008, but EWB-BPC observed in 2015 that it was dry.
As a solution, EWB-BPC designed a four-phase water supply project to introduce a sustainable water source with increased ease of access. Phase One of the Mkutani Project was to install a 120 meter deep well and install a hand-pump to provide a safe drinking water supply. In May 2016, at a site determined by a hydrogeological survey, and the well was drilled and was found to produce a plentiful amount of fresh water during pump testing.
In 2017, EWB-BPC teamed up with the EWB-MIT student chapter to work on the Mkutani project. An assessment trip to Mkutani concluded that the hand-pump was not the long-term solution to Mkutani’s lack of access to potable water and its corresponding demand. In addition to its 4 km (2.5 mile) distance from the community’s center, the hand pump proved to be prone to mechanical failures and eventually burdened the community with its high repair costs. Even after the installation of the hand pump, obtaining drinking water still had to be complemented by water from other sources. A cholera outbreak in October 2017 underscored the necessity to develop a better solution.
Phase Two was to install an electric pump to minimize the recurring costs of the hand-pump mechanical failures and to ensure a consistent and affordable supply of clean water for the village of Mkutani. Based on input from the community, the decision was made to switch to a solar powered pump. The hand pump was removed and replaced by a solar pump in August 2018. The pump is powered by six solar panels and the water from the well is pumped to and stored in a local tank, which sits upon a tank stand constructed by a local supplier. A tap stand was then connected to the tank and security fencing was installed to enclose the entire system. Preliminary testing indicated sufficient flow from the tap stand and that the entire system was functioning at expected efficiency. Training sessions were conducted throughout the duration of the trip to train community members how to operate, maintain, and monitor the system.
The goal of Phase Three is to further increase accessibility to potable drinking water by connecting the well to a location in the village at the school site. This will eliminate the hardship of carrying water for four kilometers across the dirt roads between the pump and the community. Phase Four will be to design and install a distribution system throughout the village so that no one need walk more than 400 meters to obtain clean drinking water.
A remote Implementation Trip is planned for January 2021 to begin work on the Mkutani Water Supply Main Pipeline. Donations for the Mkutani Project will go to purchasing the pipe and installing large tanks with a distribution point so that the women and children of Mkutani will no longer have to walk 5 miles for clean water to drink.