15 October 2015

First Month of Operation in San Matías, El Paraíso

Operation of AguaClara's twelfth water treatment plant in Honduras began in the last week of September, 2015. The plant treats 14 L/s and serves about 700 households spread across four communities in the department of El Paraíso: San Matías, Robledal, Corral Falso, and San Francisco. Six operator candidates have been operating the plant for the past few weeks under the supervision of an AguaClara technician and engineer from Agua Para el Pueblo. They will be supervised for two months as a practical training period, after which the local water board will select three of them to be permanent operators.

The San Matías plant includes a number of innovations. The most visibly obvious is an elevated entrance tank which stores a reserve of water used to increase the flow through the plant when the operator needs to backwash the filter during the dry season. The reserve has already been tested successfully several times, and backwash frequency has been estimated at 30 hours. However, this value was estimated during a period of high influent turbidity, and will be less frequent during periods of low influent turbidity and as operators refine their coagulant dosing.

Another innovation hidden in the sand bend of the stacked rapid sand filter is a new injection system. Instead of the expensive, imported, easily-clogged slotted pipes used as previous entrance module branches, the new branches have orifices and wings which were fabricated locally by plant operators. The orifices cannot be clogged, and the wings prevent sand reentry during a brief period of back-flow at the end of the backwash cycle. Researchers at Cornell are working on a similar extraction system to eliminate the use of slotted pipes in the filter altogether.

The communities served by the plant have shown a strong commitment to its success, adopting a household monthly water tariff of 100 lempiras (about $5) - the highest water tariff of any community served by an AguaClara plant to date. Roughly half of this tariff will cover the expenses of the plant (operator salaries and chemicals), while the other half will cover general maintenance expenses for the network and plumber and accountant salaries. Considering that families often spend 200 lempiras a month on bottled water, our plant is going to provide a lot of savings!

13 April 2015

Groundbreaking in San Matías, El Paraíso

Construction has begun on AguaClara’s 11th water treatment plant in Honduras! The new plant will treat 14 L/s and serve about 3,500 people in four communities: San Matías, Robledal, Corral Falso, and San Francisco. The project is being financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (COSUDE) and the community, and will include the construction of the plant as well as training and capacity-building with future plant operators and local water administrators. COSUDE has helped finance several other AguaClara plants in the past, including those in Alauca, San Nicolás, Morocelí, and Jesús de Otoro. We are implementing the project with our long-time partner Agua Para el Pueblo.
The community is very excited about the project, as we saw when the students visited San Matías in January. We received our warmest welcoming ceremony yet, complete with a press briefing at the plant site, a town assembly with speeches, awards, music, and dancing, and a dinner banquet with more music and dancing. Community awareness and involvement are critical to the success and sustainability of our projects, so it’s really encouraging to see such an enthusiastic response from the people and leaders of San Matías.

This plant will be the first AguaClara plant to include an entrance tank reservoir, designed to assist in backwashing the filter if the flow into the plant drops during the dry months of summer. Elevated walls on a portion of the entrance tank will store water during normal operation, so that if the flow rate into the plant decreases significantly the operator can release this reserve to increase the flow through the plant up to what’s necessary to backwash the filter.

We've been developing the project since last November, and we officially broke ground a month ago on March 9, 2015. We expect to finish construction of the plant in August, followed by two months of practical, hands-on training for the new operators. That means we’re just five months away from providing clean drinking water to the people of San Matías!

25 March 2015

Support AguaClara and help create a new lab space!

This summer Cornell AguaClara will be moving all of our project teams into the project lab space in the basement of Hollister Hall. This is an exciting opportunity for us. We are currently 60 students spread across 5 lab spaces on 2 floors. In this new lab, we will be in one contiguous space and sharing ideas (and tools and lab supplies) between teams will be easier than ever. The new lab will have space for 15 new workstations.

Donate today to make this new lab a reality! (Select other and designate AguaClara!)

Project lab space showing our planned new Lab Workstations.
AguaClara project teams are creating new solutions that provide safe drinking water on tap. The 12th AguaClara water treatment plant is under construction in San Matias, Honduras, a pilot scale foam filter is being tested in a village in the mountains above Tegucigalpa, and stacked rapid sand filters are being tested in two villages in Jharkhand, India. Our globally engaged work relies on the Cornell student project teams that are inventing the technologies. Our partners, Agua Para el Pueblo and AguaClara LLC, are deploying those technologies in communities on two continents. It begins with AguaClara supporters who donate to make it possible!

The AguaClara project teams are an amazing educational experience. The best way to learn how to be an engineer is to do some real engineering. Student teams Research, Invent, Design and then Engage with our partner organizations. Cornell students are taking full advantage of this opportunity to learn and to change the world. 
"The best part of this course is that we are able to make it our own, and guide our learning towards research that interests us (within the broader, common goals of each subteam, of course). I have never taken a course that has allowed me this much freedom, and it has really challenged and excited me to go to the lab each day. Plus, there's nothing like a real world application of your work as a motivator." - midterm feedback from a current student
"This course is awesome and has significantly improved my skills and qualifications as an engineer. It is perhaps one of the best courses I have taken at Cornell. I have learned so much about working in groups, designing experiments, being accountable for work, etc. This class deserves all of the praise in the world." - midterm feedback from a current student
We've been designing mobile lab workstations for the new laboratory. The lab stations will enable computer controlled experiments in a wet environment. Those of you who have worked in the AguaClara labs know that sometimes the agua doesn't go where we want it to go. The new lab workstations will have work surfaces connected to a drain. All electronic equipment will be kept off of the workbench surface on a customized shelf system. The shelves will hold the experimental apparatus, including the computer controlled pumps and meters. The stations will be mobile, so we can easily reconfigure the lab space to accommodate pilot scale testing or apparatus that doesn't fit on one workstation. These workstations are designed to make the AguaClara RIDE more efficient and even more fun for students.
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Lab workstation. We will be adding a shelf system
 for pumps, meters, and computers.

Donate today! (Select other and designate AguaClara!)
  • $45,000 provides 15 Lab Workstations for all of the AguaClara project teams
  • $3000 provides a complete Lab Workstation for one AguaClara project team
  • $500 provides a stand up, adjustable-height computer station for a Workstation
  • $300 provides the customized shelf system built using 80/20.
  • $100 provides a lab stool

Thank you for all that you do to make the world a better place!

24 January 2015

Inauguration in Jesús de Otoro

January 21st, 2015 was the inauguration of the AguaClara treatment plant in Jesús de Otoro, Intibucá, Honduras. Now having operated for 2 months, the water treatment plant is part of a larger development project in the town that has also improved the sewer system and roads. These parts of the project were also inaugurated along with the plant. The entire project was funded by  the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (COSUDE) as well as the municipal government of Jesús de Otoro. COSUDE works on development issues throughout Central America and has previously assisted in the funding of AguaClara plants in Alauca, San Nicolás, and Morocelí. They will soon be funding a future AguaClara plant in San Matías in the department of El Paraíso.
A representative of COSUDE addressing the audience at the town center to formally inaugurate the Jesús de Otoro project
During the morning of the inauguration, representatives from all involved parties met at the town center for a celebration. The successes of the project were announced and a local high school band showed their own prowess, playing songs to celebrate the improvement of their town's infrastructure.
APP Civil Engineer Santiago Garcia (center, purple) explaining the treatment processes in the Jesús de Otoro plant
In the afternoon, everyone toured the new roads before making their way up to the AguaClara plant, where Agua Para el Pueblo Civil Engineer Santiago Garcia led a brief tour of the water treatment processes used there. The plant was packed with supervisors of the different aspects of the project, members of the local water boards, and representatives from COSUDE. Santiago and one of the plant operators, Carlos Maldonado, answered a whirlwind of questions over the sound of water exiting the plant before the procession quickly returned to the town center. It was a long day for everyone at APP and in Jesús de Otoro, but we are more proud than ever to say we are helping to supply the people of Jesús de Otoro with clean water 24 hours a day!