Water Environment Federation (WEF)

Engineers without borders: sustainable engineering for developing communities

Through integrated design strategies and a longstanding commitment to communities, students from Johns Hopkins and University of Maryland chapters of Engineers Without Borders and professionals from the Chesapeake EWB section collaborated on potable water, sanitation, and irrigation projects in developing communities worldwide. In Baan Bo Mai, Thailand, a pipeline was installed to provide the village with water from a safe, dependable source. In Patadel, Ecuador, an existing potable water system was expanded and improved. In Uduzhapa and Conseco, Ecuador, the villages were provided with safe sanitation through individual household latrines with contained waste pits. In KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, ram pump irrigation systems were installed for community gardens, freeing the gardeners from the arduous and timeconsuming task of carrying water.

The benefits of these projects in developing communities are not limited to the finished products.  Participating team members gain project leadership experience, technical experience, and field experience. More importantly, the teams forge ties with their project communities through the shared challenges, communication, and labor of the collaborative project cycle.


According to the World Health Organization, cholera and other diarrheal diseases kill 1.8 million people annually. Of these victims, 90% are children under the age of five. Eighty-eight percent of incidents of diarrheal disease result from contaminated water supply and poor sanitation and hygiene. Yet as of 2002, 17% of the world’s population (1.1 billion people) did not have access to improved water sources and 42% (2.6 billion people) had no access to proper sanitation
(WHO, 2004).

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