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Columbia University Engineers without Borders water project in Ghana

Dear Emirates Airline Foundation,

On behalf of the Columbia University Engineers without Borders (CU-EWB) team, we would like to thank the Emirates Airline Foundation for supporting our 2019 water supply project in Ghana. During this trip, we were able to further our partnerships with local organizations, and gather broader data concerning water quality in the district in which we work.

This trip gave us access to engineers and public sector workers, who were able to give us new insights about existing practices in water and sanitation in Ghana, and how best to move forward with our project and overcome the challenges facing our community. We were also able to learn about existing treatment systems and obtained a profile of the iron and manganese contaminant levels in the boreholes within our community.

This research was integral to our ongoing assessment to determine the best way to create sustainable impact in the community of Amanfrom, Ghana. After this trip, we are confident that we will be able to determine the next step for improving clean water access in the community. None of our work would have been possible without the Emirates Airline Foundation’s generous contribution of our air travel from the US to Ghana.

In order to assess the feasibility of treating the water in the two recently constructed boreholes, we gathered extensive data on the water quality and travelled across the region to look at similar systems. Because the community had noticed color changes while pumping the hilltop well, we conducted field tests on the well every half hour. Despite confirming that the black sediment disappeared from the water after a while, the iron and manganese content remained high. On the bright side, the field tests indicated that the Junior High School well had lower levels of iron and manganese than previously measured. We are still hoping to confirm this progress with a more precise lab here in New York City, but it is nonetheless a very good indication.

The team also travelled to the city of Accra and the village of Kade. In these two trips, we saw treatment systems for iron and manganese that had been constructed with the help of contractors at the Water Research Institute in Accra. Both the household and communal systems involved pressurized filtration, making the system quite space efficient. The bigger question is how much would constructing a similar system in Amanfrom cost, since we have higher levels of iron and manganese than most other filtration plants account for. Now that we are back, we plan to do a full cost analysis, comparing a possible filtration and distribution system to attempting to construct another borehole.

We thank the Emirates Airline Foundation again for your great support, and look forward to continuing our work on sustainable engineering projects in Ghana and beyond.


Heather Morriss, Debbie Leung, Sam Lesser, Ollie Schuster

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