Red Wing grad works to improve water system in El SalvadorMost of us take indoor plumbing for granted. But, as Matthew Mettling learned, having easily accessible running water is not a given in every part of the world.
By: Sarah Gorvin, The Republican Eagle
Most of us take indoor plumbing for granted. But, as Matthew Mettling learned, having easily accessible running water is not a given in every part of the world.
The Red Wing native returned from Santa Rosa Senca, El Salvador, Jan. 12, after spending nearly two weeks in the Third World country studying its eroding water system.
“Going there really opened my eyes to what goes on in the world,” Mettling said.
Mettling is studying civil engineering at Minnesota State University, Mankato and is part of the Engineers Without Borders chapter there.
“They’re here to support other communities … to implement sustainable (resources),” Mettling said of the group.
EWB-MSU first heard about the problems in Santa Rosa Senca’s water system through a Peace Corps volunteer working in the community. The town, with a population of about 1,200 people, had a water system installed about 15 years ago using funding from the Burnsville (Minn.) Rotary Club.
But the pipes and other parts of the system weren’t taken care of properly, leading to breaks and erosion. To make matters worse, a huge rain storm during the last rainy season took its toll on the infrastructure, leaving the system crumbling, Mettling said.
“Exposed pipes, broken pipes,” he said.
The goal of EWB-MSU’s recent trip was to assess the situation and come up with a plan for what needs to be done to make improvements and repairs. Mettling was joined by three other engineering students and a mentor.
For Santa Rose Senca, running water means a spigot on the outside of each house. Currently, about 185 of the city’s 300 houses have a spigot.
“You have a very poor community,” he said.
Part of the plan the students put together was to extend the water system to at least 27 more houses and fix the erosion problems. They also want to solve water pressure problems caused by having the tank located high on a hill and install a pump house with a flow meter.
Lastly, the residents asked to learn how to operate their new water system so that it lasts.
“They want some training of management and maintenance on the system to run it better,” Mettling said.
Now, with the assessment trip over, the next step is to raise money for implementing the new system, which will cost about $18,000, Mettling said.
“It’s a lot cheaper down there,” he said.
Mettling and the rest of the EWB-MSU group has been raising money through special events, such as selling concessions at hockey games. They’re also giving presentations and asking for donations from various community groups, such as Rotary clubs.
The goal is to have the money raised by March so that the students can go back to Santa Rose Senca over their spring break do the work.
Mettling said if they don’t raise enough money by March, the latest that the trip could be pushed back to is May.
“That would be the last time we can go down. It turns into the rainy season (after that),” he said.
Anyone wishing to donate to the Santa Rose Senca project can do so by making a check out to "Engineers Without Borders - Mankato" and sending it to EWB (Matthew Mettling), 205 Trafton Science Center E., Mankato, MN 56001. People also may give online at rso.mnsu.edu/engineerswithoutborders.