Dartmouth Engineering Students Build Clean Water and Biogas Systems in Africa

October 29, 2007

CONTACT: Catharine Lamm
603/646-3943

Students from Dartmouth Humanitarian Engineering Leadership Projects (HELP) Worldwide and Dartmouth Engineers Without Borders (EWB) spent the summer implementing a clean water system in Nyamilu, Kenya, and a biogas system for a health clinic in Bisate, Rwanda.

student and villagers in Kenya
Brad Fierstein '06 Th'07 with Nyamilu Community Water Project Committee

student and villagers in Kenya
Karl Johnson '06 Th'07 with workers lower drop pipe into bore hole

Nyamilu, a village in southwestern Kenya, suffers from chronic drought and water-borne diseases. Building on a 2005 EWB project of installing a solar-powered water pump in Nyamilu, the 2007 team (Brad Fierstein '06 Th'07, Karl Johnson '06 Th'07, Sandy Beauregard '06 Th'07, Noah Dentzel '10, Nicholas Edwards '10 and Laura Tabor '10) designed and constructed a distribution system for the water source. A 30,000 liter tank supplies clean water to a gravity-fed network of 12 tap stands placed in communal areas including a school, a church, and the town center. The new system serves approximately 2000 people over a radius of more than 2km.

To ensure ongoing success of the project, a committee of Nyamilu community members was set up to oversee the governance of the system, and a local maintenance staff was trained in all aspects of repair and troubleshooting. In addition, a full feasibility study and topographical survey was performed on the adjacent village of Kipingi, for planned implementation of a clean water source in 2008.

At the Health Clinic of Bisate, a remote village along the Congolese border next to Volcanoes National Park, Dartmouth students designed and built an innovative biogas digester system that converts the clinic's human waste into sanitized fertilizer and clean-burning fuel. The gaseous fuel is used in stoves for cooking and also as part of a soap-making business that's a source of extra income for local women.

The Rwanda team (Benjamin Koons '08, J.J. Johnson '06 TH'07, and Andrew Johnston '06 TH'08) worked with members of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund (DFGFI) and the Wyman Worldwide Health Partners Fund (WWHPS) as part of Comprehensive Community Health Initiatives and Programs (CCHIPS) enacted jointly with the Rwandan Ministry of Health. CCHIPS was created to promote the development of essential infrastructure, including year-round access to potable water and proper sanitation practices, at rural health clinics throughout Rwanda.

student and villagers in Rwanda
Harold Johnson III '06 Th'07 with Bisate community members in Rwanda; and Bisate community members peek into the digester pit

These projects were financed through private donations and fundraising efforts, including generous donations from Thayer School, The Byrne Foundation, and nearly $8,000 raised by a student-organized benefit concert at Dartmouth's Green Key Block Party.


Dartmouth Humanitarian Engineering Leadership Projects (HELP) Worldwide is a student organization created to support technically oriented humanitarian projects at Dartmouth. The organization's intent is to improve the quality of life for communities all over the world through the implementation of appropriate technologies that are socially conscious, environmentally aware, and fully sustainable. Dartmouth HELP Worldwide maintains a chapter of Engineers Without Borders, part of a national not-for-profit organization that coordinates global humanitarian engineering projects for university and professional chapters.