Tulane’s Engineers Without Borders designs pipeline in Ecuador


Courtesy of Westely Sturhan

TEWB members presenting the pipeline project to the Laquigo village.

Deeya Patel, News Editor

Tulane’s Engineers Without Borders has been working on a project in Laquigo, Ecuador, for the past four years to research and solve a pressing issue in the community — water scarcity. 

“Imagine being in this situation,” TEWB fundraising chair Westley Sturhan said. “The last time water flowed was seven days ago … Living with scarcity of our most basic necessity. It’s a scary proposition, but this is the pace of life for the 2,500 people of Laquigo — an agrarian village high in the mountains of central Ecuador.” 

The students have traveled to Ecuador three times, most recently in summer 2019. They surveyed the area surrounding Laquigo, measured the flow rate of the water and tested for the presence of chemicals, ultimately determining that a 21-kilometer water pipeline would be the most efficient solution to supply enough water to the Laquigo community for the next 20 years. 

Courtesy of Kendra Valerius
TEWB members hiked and macheted their way through the jungle to find seven water sources for the pipeline.

“The people of Laquigo are completely on board and have offered to provide all the labor for the project, store the pipeline materials, and cover half of the cost of the project,” Sturhan said.

Right now, the design for the pipeline created by TEWB is in the process of being approved by EWB-USA professional engineers, and construction for the first half of the pipeline will begin in the summer of 2022.

The organization, which is entirely student-run, learned how to design an efficient water pipeline with the help of Professor Douglas Chrisey, the Jung Chair of Materials Engineering, and David Zadigian, an engineer who brings expertise at the professional level. They have also learned how to navigate the financial aspects of the project. 

The organization has already raised $45,000 for the project, though its ultimate goal is $75,000.

“The people of Laquigo are a driving force in this project, and sincerely want this to be finished, and we are very much working with the community to accomplish this project that they want,” Sturhan said.

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