18 November 2016

Updates from San Juan Guarita and Las Vegas!

The 5 L/s plant in San Juan Guarita is now nearing the final stages of completion!  

The team is currently wrapping up fabrication of two Enclosed Stacked Rapid Sand Filters (EStaRS) with a PVC workshop in Tegucigalpa, and next week the team will travel to San Juan Guarita to begin work on the chemical dosing system.  On the social side the team has already narrowed the operators down to 6 final candidates, and there have been several water board meetings to discuss community expectations, plant sustainability, and a new tariff price.

In Las Vegas, the team is expecting to test the 70 L/s plant for the first time within the next two weeks!

This week the team of operators and APP technicians finished installing the entrance and exit modules for each of the four Open Stacked Rapid Sand Filters (OStaRS).  On the community level, six incredible operators have been chosen as final candidates, and APP has been holding neighborhood level workshops to create awareness and support for the new AguaClara technology. A chemical engineer was also hired for a full time role with the plant, and he will be in charge of monitoring the dose of HCl that is administered to prevent the formation of Calcium Carbonate in the distribution system.

Two new projects will begin in January, one a 30 L/s plant at the Zamorano Pan-American Agricultural School, and the second a 105 L/s plant in the city of Gracias, the capital of the department of Lempira. It also looks like a plant in La Concordia, Nicaragua is on the horizon early in 2017, and the team will be heading to Guatemala next week to assess the feasibility of a 70 L/s AguaClara plant in Quezaltepeque, Chiquimula. APP is taking steps to prepare for the busy year ahead and has hired an additional technician, and will also hold an internal workshop on Dec 2-3 to discuss best practices for our civil and environmental engineers, architects, plant foreman, and technical support roles. The future certainly looks bright here in Honduras and beyond!

07 November 2016

Celebrate 3 milestones for AguaClara

1 L/s plant ships to Honduras for testing

The 1 L/s sedimentation tank is shipping to Honduras VERY SOON. It will leave the Hollister Hall loading dock for Miami this afternoon! The pallet weighs 625 lbs without the flocculator. We will assemble a new pipe flocculator in Honduras in January.

We have 2 student teams working to design a shorter filter that can be added to the 1 L/s plant and that won't require placement at a lower elevation than the rest of the plant.

I dream that by the end of summer 2017 we will have a full plant including flocculator and stacked rapid sand filter that makes a complete prefabricated package.

The AguaClara team is raising funds for the trip to Honduras

This trip will include testing of the 1 L/s plant and if all goes well we will create a plan for the next steps toward using the plant to provide safe drinking water for a community. It takes a community to provide the financial support so that Cornell students can continue the AguaClara RIDE.

Demand for AguaClara water treatment plants continues to grow 

Agua Para el Pueblo has requests for preliminary designs for communities in Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Honduras. My dream of expanding to more countries seems to be happening organically based on the reputation of the plants in Honduras. The growing demand will require evolution of the AguaClara program as we work to ensure that our designs are construction ready and that we have designs for a wider range of flow rates. I'm always looking for wisdom for how to guide the program to expand while maintaining high quality water and the highest quality education!

30 October 2016

Master of Engineering Application for 2017

The AguaClara program in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Cornell University provides an opportunity for Environmental Master of Engineering students to learn about and to invent planet (and people) friendly, sustainable water and wastewater technologies. The program is designed for students who are passionate about making the world a better place and who are preparing for professional careers as innovators and leaders. Recent graduates are employed by: Arcadis, Black & Veatch, Brown and Caldwell, CH2M, ERM, GHD, Veolia North America as well as water departments of major cities, startup consulting, UNEP, and more.

The Master of Engineering program uniquely combines graduate courses with hands on collaborative learning and client-focused innovation in the AguaClara laboratory. The Master of Engineering degree can be completed in either two or three semesters. Share this with your friends and apply now. Contact Monroe Weber-Shirk, founder and director of AguaClara, with any questions you have about joining our community of learners and innovators

The 18 AguaClara student project teams research, invent, design, fabricate, and test novel solutions for global water environmental challenges. AguaClara was one of the very first open source engineering teams. The open source model has accelerated the innovation cycle and the team creates many new inventions every year. The AguaClara designs are created by the team using a novel parametric design scheme that connects engineering design code with 3-D AutoCAD and automated report generation. 

More than 50,000 people are already benefiting from the next generation of municipal water treatment technologies invented by the Cornell AguaClara student teams and built in Honduras by Agua Para el Pueblo. The team is working to share these advanced technologies with other countries including the United States.

Our inventions and designs are based on a deep understanding of fluid dynamics, particle interactions, and reactor geometry. Our curiosity and passion for safe water on tap has led to the first 2 m deep, self-cleaning, zero settled sludge, sedimentation tank that contains both a fluidized bed of flocs and plate settlers.

The team has received numerous EPA P3 awards and is developing arsenic and fluoride removal technologies for an EPA P3 Phase II award. The goal is to test those technologies in India by the summer of 2018. The team is researching high rate anaerobic wastewater treatment with the goal of piloting an anaerobic fluidized bed reactor in the field in the near future. 

As a team member you will gain project management experience, team work skills, and experience applying your engineering skills. The AguaClara lab space includes state-of-the-art custom-designed workstations for computer controlled experiments with easily configured software and hardware. Student teams design and build experimental apparatus and prototypes using a well stocked supply of components and tools.

In 2016 student teams fabricated the first 1 L/s portable water treatment plant using AguaClara technologies. This novel, ultra low energy, village-scale, drinking water treatment plant will be field tested in Honduras beginning in January of 2017. This new technology has global applications for demonstrating AguaClara technologies, rapid provision of safe water after disasters, as well as sustainable infrastructure for hundreds of thousands of small towns and villages that lack access to safe drinking water. 

You will be invited to join an engineering in context trip during the January intersession to tour AguaClara drinking water treatment facilities and to demonstrate new technologies to our Honduran partner organization, Agua Para el Pueblo. There will be opportunities to help with plant maintenance and upgrades as well as opportunities to learn to know community members who have become advocates for safe water on tap.

What do students and employers say about Cornell's AguaClara program?

“The Cornell Masters of Engineering program is one of our top recruiting locations.  The students are well prepared due to the technical knowledge and analytical problem-solving capabilities which they learn.  But it’s the self-motivation, oral & written communication skills, team-building and leadership skills which they learn that make them excellent consultants and allow them to quickly progress within our organization.  Additionally, those involved with the AguaClara program have a passion for improving quality of life which is essential for being a successful environmental engineer.”
(VP at Global Engineering Consulting Firm)
Whenever I’m talking to coworkers or friends who are job hunting, I’ve found that AguaClara always comes up since it was one of the most influential and important parts of my college experience. I definitely attribute most of the skills that helped me start my career to my experience with AguaClara and I can’t thank you enough for providing such a great learning environment for me and everyone else who has been a part of the program.  The combination of hands-on research, technical report writing, and oral presentations is a great structure to develop important skills needed in the real world. The fact that AguaClara’s research impacts and helps real communities made me super excited that a class I’m taking at school can actually have a positive effect on someone and not just be problems from a textbook.(Vicky)
AguaClara has been the  most enriching experience at Cornell in terms of academic quality and practical experience. The entire team believes in knowledge transfer and promotes open learning which is very conducive in building sound concepts along with hands-on problem solving capabilities. While working with  AguaClara, I learnt the actual significance and application of sustainability in  socio-economic context. All the teams associated with Cornell with Professor Weber-Shirk at the helm, are a group of very talented and innovative students and I have learnt a lot from them. (Guneet)"
AguaClara provided me with hands on experience collaborating with students and faculty of many different disciplines to develop and implement new technologies with an immediate impact on people's lives. The overall experience was incredibly powerful and something you could not get from a typical engineering curriculum." (Bradshaw) 
Teamwork. I learned how important working together was and communication. I also learned that valuable lesson that you can still (and should) have fun and love what you're doing while making a difference in the world from the joy and passion of other AguaClara members. (Marianne)
I enjoyed the hands-on learning and seeing innovation rapidly deployed to improve lives. I was able to apply knowledge gained in the classroom in the real-world immediately, without having to wait until graduation or even years after that. (Jeff)
It was my first real experience working on a long - term independent project not associated with class or a job. It was helpful preparing for graduate school (Brianne)
I worked on the design team in the early stages of developing the automated design tool. I loved creating a product that I knew was immediately being used to solve a problem. Learning how to take suggestions from the engineers in the field and incorporate it in a meaningful way was very valuable. (Heather) 
Everything that our teams in AguaClara at Cornell do, is transferred into plants in Honduras that work and treat water for a dozen towns. (Juan)

28 August 2016

New 5 L/s Plant in San Juan Guarita, Lempira, Honduras!

Construction of Honduras' smallest AguaClara plant yet is under way in San Juan Guarita, Lempira. The plant will treat 5 L/s for about 200 households in this small municipality in southwestern Honduras and will feature several innovations to the AguaClara technology.

The San Juan Guarita plant will be the first to include our new, compact entrance tank and flocculator design. The new entrance tank is compact enough that it fits in the first channel of the flocculator, eliminating the significant capital cost of building a completely separate tank. The new flocculator design incorporates additional obstructions between baffles to provoke more collisions (more chances for flocs to stick together!) in the previously unused space.

The plant will also be the first in Honduras to use the EStaRS (Enclosed Stacked Rapid Sand Filter) technology. These filters are closed to the atmosphere, as opposed to the OStaRS (Open), and will be pre-fabricated from 24" PVC pipe in a PVC workshop in Tegucigalpa. These filters don't require as much depth, or excavation, so they're less expensive to build.

Construction of the plant began at the beginning of July and is expected to continue through the end of October. Operator training and water board capacity building will be starting shortly.

Click here to see the latest pictures of the plant in San Juan Guarita!

18 April 2016

Sustainability Workshop in Honduras

AguaClara and Agua Para el Pueblo (APP), our implementation partner in Honduras, are working to strengthen our network of treatment plants in Honduras. This past week, from April 14-16, we hosted a workshop for the water board leaders and plant operators from all of the communities with AguaClara plants. The workshop had several objectives: review and standardize operation and maintenance procedures, motivate capital improvements to outdated plants, strengthen water quality monitoring and communication, invigorate the water board association "AsociaciĆ³n Comunitaria de AguaClara en Honduras" (ACACH), and promote collaboration with public health entities. APP organized and financed the workshop, with contributions from Mexichem plastics suppliers and Solquin chemical suppliers. Click here to see more pictures from the workshop.

As an iterative design program, AguaClara is continually improving its water treatment technologies, and every AguaClara plant includes new innovations. Consequently, every cohort of plant operators has an experience particular to their plant. We want to empower plant operators from different communities to share these experiences with each other and with APP staff to collectively improve and standardize our operation and maintenance procedures, ensuring all plants constructed since 2006 are operating optimally. This workshop was a good first step, which already generated a novel filter backwash technique, and we hope to use social media to maintain communication between operators and water boards.

Another continuous effort of APP and water board leaders is water quality monitoring, in which we hope to coordinate with the ministry of health. Systematic monitoring is mandated by Honduran law but is often poorly enforced and shared between the service provider, government, and the public. Successful monitoring also helps operators improve their practices, builds confidence in the water's safety, justifies the water tariff, assists APP technicians identify problems, and is crucial to Cornell researchers for technology improvement. AguaClara currently supports two data reporting and publication platforms: a text message system administered by Wash 4 All, and a pilot smartphone application "POST" being developed by students at Cornell. These systems allow plant operators to remotely report operation data that can be accessed by anyone with an internet connection. Crucial to ensuring water quality, we also want to improve the frequency of bacteriological analyses by making available CBT kits which can estimate E. coli MPN in the field, and asking support from public health technicians to collect and transport samples to local laboratories.

To better coordinate and sustain these activities, we are strengthening the AguaClara water board association, "AsociaciĆ³n Comunitaria de AguaClara en Honduras" (ACACH). As we build more plants in Honduras, the need for a coordinating body which can sustain continuous technical support for the plants becomes more and more critical. During the workshop, water board members reviewed the statutes, objectives, and plans of the association, and re-elected its executive board from among the local water board leaders. The association will negotiate reduced group rates for chemicals used in the plants, one of their principal expenses, and will meet again in May and June to continue defining their objectives and expanding their capacity.

To keep up the positive energy from the workshop, APP's Antonio Elvir will make follow-up technical visits to all of the plants in the coming month. He will complete pending maintenance, identify and review budgets for capital improvements that can be made to outdated plants, collect water samples for analysis, and build water board administrative capacity. This will be a key step to improving communication between all players in the AguaClara program, from APP and local water boards to the ministry of health and community members. Sustaining our water treatment plants is a continuous challenge, and we are inspired by the enthusiasm we see in our plant operators and water board leaders!

28 February 2016

Breaking Ground in Las Vegas, Santa Barbara

We are very excited to announce the beginning of construction of the newest AguaClara plant in Honduras. Located in Las Vegas, Santa Barbara, the country's 13th AguaClara plant in its 12th community represents a large step and unique challenge for AguaClara and Agua Para el Pueblo. Las Vegas has two water sources, one much dirtier than the other. The high turbidity water will be treated by flocculation and sedimentation before mixing with lower turbidity raw water and entering the filters. The capacity of the flocculation and sedimentation processes is 44 Liters per second, and the filters will be able to treat 70 Liters per second, treating not only the flocculated and settled water, but also the low turbidity raw water from the community's second water source. In all, the plant will supply clean water to a future population of over 30,000 people. This will be by far the largest capacity AguaClara plant to date!
Las Vegas also represents a unique challenge as the first community to use an AguaClara plant to address water hardness and scaling in the city's water pipes. Currently, the water's high pH, high calcium and magnesium levels, and increasing temperature throughout the distribution system cause calcium carbonate to build up in the drinking water pipes, obstructing the flow of water. Frequently replacing these pipes throughout town is a large expense for the municipal government as well as a regular complaint for the entire town. Alongside the normal dosing of coagulant and chlorine, hydrochloric acid will be dosed in the plant to combat the scaling issue.

German Castejon, pictured here with APP Civil Engineer Aminta Nunez, is the foreman on the construction site. German has worked on many projects with APP in the past, and this will be his fifth AguaClara plant as a foreman. Construction of the plant should last nine months and is planned to finish in November of this year.

01 February 2016

Call for Applications - AguaClara Engineer in Honduras

Now accepting applications for AguaClara Engineers with Agua Para el Pueblo in Honduras to begin in Summer 2016! To learn more, please click on the link below. The application form will be open until 11:59 PM EST on Feb. 29, 2016.