Hey everybody! Erin, Christine, and I are sitting at the Addis Ababa airport waiting for our flight to London and then finally to New York. After over a month spent in Ghana, our travel team has finally completed the Obodan water distribution system! The roadblocks and challenges seemed endless, yet our dedicated EWB group, with the help of contractors, village members, and countless children in the community, constructed a working water distribution system for Obodan. Even in the last couple of days with the system working, it seems like a huge success. The community spends less time and effort in fetching water. They don’t have to use a hand pump to have water anymore and many in the community now have water significantly closer to their houses. When I first got to Obodan and saw all the work that we had to complete, I was skeptical that the project would get completed. After all those months and long hours both working on the design of the system and the implementation, EWB-Columbia, Ghana chapter completed this project.
Some group members and the community while Lucas inspects the spigot
I think the most important and memorable day for me is when the water finally started flowing. Last Wednesday (8/21/13), the pump supplier finally installed the pump and we connected it to the system and got water! This week started out very stressful. First off, Electric Company of Ghana took forever to connect to the grid. Eventually Christine and Lucas had to go to their office in nearby Nsawam to pay them and have them sign a contract saying that they had to complete the task by the end of the day. It was an especially stressful day because had ECG decided to come in two weeks like they originally planned, our project would not have been finished in the allotted time we had. Once the electric company came, they couldn’t connect to the grid because the other electricians that we hired had made a single-phase electrical setup instead of the necessary triple-phase. This required them to come back the next day once it was fixed. Luckily, they did come the next day which allowed for water that day!
One of the first times using water
Of course, the problems didn't stop there. Once we filled the tanks up all the way, we found leaks, leaks, and more leaks at the tank connections. We had to fix these and once we fixed these there were still a ton of leaks. The leaks stemmed from not having quality made tanks that matched up perfectly. Eventually, on the third try, we fixed all the leaks and the system ran smoothly. The other work involved was building masonry over the exposed pipes near the well in order to deter theft and protect the pipes from weather conditions, and building concrete slabs for each of the spigot locations so that the ground wouldn't become like a swimming pool. We also shocked the water table and both tanks with chlorine so that the drinking water would be cleaner. After all these steps and some other minor fixes, the system was complete!
Christine, Erin and Robbie at the tanks
Now as a chapter we face a crossroads. We have to figure out where our chapter should go next. Obodan has developed a lot since we started coming there about eight years ago. Other communities in the surrounding area face many more problems. For example, in one community they only access to water involves using a hand well that often dries up or walking ½ mile to a river that frequently dries up as well. The team members in Ghana are all really excited about taking a new engineering challenge and helping to improve the lives of another community. We have decisions to make that could lead us to stay in Ghana or possibly a new place like South America or anywhere else that has a need that our chapter could help solve.
Erin at a finished spigot
Thanks to the students who helped with implementation: Mira, Lucas, Kofi, Leerang, Erin, Christine, and Robbie and to the mentors: Kelly and Martin. Also, thanks to all the EWB students who helped with grant writing, fundraising, the design, and all the other tasks that were essential for a successful project and finally to all the other mentors that helped guide us throughout the project. Lastly, a huge thank you to Sammy, the local assemblyman, who helped us with everything we needed once we were in Ghana. This project could never have been finished without all of your help!
Some of our group with Sammy