- Associated Press - Monday, May 12, 2014

MOSCOW, Idaho (AP) - Eight students and faculty members from the University of Idaho will fly to Bolivia in a few weeks to help a small community develop a drinking water system.

The group will fly first to La Paz, Bolivia, then drive six hours to the small village of Chiwirapi.

The village is one of the poorest in Bolivia, home to nearly 250 people and located in a valley of the Andes Mountains, 12,000 feet above sea level, the Moscow-Pullman Daily News reported Monday.

As part of a five-year commitment to the community, the University of Idaho chapter of Engineers Without Borders wants to bring drinking water to the residents of the rural, desert area. In June, the team will travel to the village for 10 days to construct two wells.

The village has a basic electric system that feeds only a few homes in the area, and the main business activities are agriculture and animal husbandry.

In 2012, a group of club members visited the area, talking to community members, surveying the land and testing the water.

Currently, the main water source is a river that runs through the village. Upstream from Chiwirapi is the bigger town of Bolivar, which has been dumping human and industrial waste into the river, said Kelby Sommer, a project leader.

But the team found the shallow groundwater did not require treatment and could be used as a significant water source. It will be safe to drink from the two wells the team constructs, and the wells will be hand-pumped and protected by a concrete apron, Sommer said.

“We don’t want to go once and leave,” Sommer said. “We want the people to be involved in the design and give them something they can reproduce.”

He said they are going to teach the community the construction process so they can expand the project themselves.

“The infrastructure is minimal,” Sommer said.

Riannon Heighes, also a project leader, said they will place a well on each side of the river so the entire community has access to clean water.

Heighes said the team will also be educating the community about appropriate sanitation methods, proper hygiene and ways to prevent groundwater contamination.

“We like the side of starting with the children so they can go on and teach the parents,” Heighes said.

Money for the Engineers Without Borders chapters is raised through fundraising and grant proposals.

“I wanted to do something that would make a difference in the world and this is a way to give back,” Heighes said.


Information from: The Moscow-Pullman Daily News, https://www.dnews.com

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