West Bank water project offers real-world experience
By Katherine Kuykendall
Anne Dare never thought much about drinking water. She just turned on the tap or picked up bottles from the grocery store. That all changed with her senior project. The senior agricultural and biological engineering major from Bloomington, Ind., worked to improve water distribution to people in the Palestinian Territory of the West Bank.
Photo by Julie Preble
"Water is all around us, especially in the Midwest," said Dare. "We hear about droughts, but this is a situation that these people face every year, and the problem is becoming increasingly worse."
Dare and other students worked on a project to improve water distribution to a community in the West Bank. They set up a plan to collect, distribute and treatwater for drinking and irrigation from two natural springs for 1,500 people. Although the town had a basic water supply system, it did not receive enough drinking water.
Short supply wasn't the only issue with the water. Dare said the community's water was potentially contaminated. This situation is fairly common in the Middle East because proper facilities to clean water or handle solid waste are not common in many areas, so the need to improve drinking water quality is great, Dare said.
"It was rewarding to work on this project and realize that we were actually doing something to address people's basic needs," said Dare. These students didn't just prepare a design; they traveled to Jordan to meet with an engineer from the Palestinian Hydrology Group, the organization they were helping. Although political circumstances didn't permit the students to travel to the West Bank community, they were able to visit a university to talk to fellow engineering students about the project.
Samantha Hess, a senior in agricultural and biological engineering from Sellersburg, Ind., also worked on the project. She said being able to see how their project would affect the impoverished area was invaluable. "It is easier to put effort into a real-world problem such as this one than it is to get motivated about some random textbook problem," said Hess.
While in Jordan, the group also saw sites that were similar to the West Bank community where their project would be implemented. By the end of the project, Dare and her fellow group members had put together a system that is estimated to cost $11.8 million to implement.
With such a large project, none of the members knew if it was feasible to actually implement the system. However, when the head of the Palestinian Hydrology Group came to visit Purdue, he had some good news: their project is in the works to be implemented. The team remains guardedly optimistic, noting that without additional funding, it would be nearly impossible for the people of that community to implement the project. However, Dare, Hess and the rest of the team are excited about the project they designed.
"Knowing that some of the work we did helped to further a project that will so greatly impact an impoverished area is a good feeling," said Hess.