Work continues on El Llanito water supply system

Phil Bowman has initiated our construction monitoring WhatsApp calls. On 27 January he wrote:

This afternoon we had a brief WhatsApp conference call (max of 4 participants on a WhatsApp call) with Martin, Javier, Luz and me. Eveling was originally invited but she had a conflict today.
Today’s Work Progress: Martin’s primary work today was fabricating the rebar for the break pressure tank to go near Zeleyda’s house. Luz provided two photos of his work in progress attached below.
Questions or issues: We discussed the dimensions of the galvanized pipe that he will be putting into the tanks and that he needed to ensure the inlet pipe was threaded to accept a future float valve.
Besides the break-tank questions, Martin also asked about the special tap stand to be placed partway up the hill towards the storage tanks. He wanted to confirm that the Tee would go into the 2 inch pipe along the road and the water meter for that line would be placed next to the road. This line is unique in that it will use a 1 inch pipe and a 1 inch water meter because of the distance this tap stand is away from the main water line. The 1 inch line will be reduced to 1/2 inch right before the tap stand.
Tomorrow’s Plans: Martin expects to complete the pressure break tank tomorrow. If there is time, he will then start to build the junction valve box nearby that pressure break tank (near Zeleyda’s house).

Next call:  We agreed to hold a similar brief status call tomorrow, Tuesday, at 5:30 pm Nicaragua time.
Other Issues:  Luz brought up a question about tap stand locations:  The Water Committee was under the impression that we would have a tap stand near Adeleida’s house under the belief that the elevation was no higher than the previously identified tap stand on that route.  However, Javier’s analysis indicated that Adeleida’s house was indeed at a higher elevation than the EPAnet model analysis would support, so, no, that tap stand was not possible.  Luz said that in that case, our KML files showed that the last tap stand along that route was the one placed at the church.  I took an action to investigate that – may initial belief was that our original design did include at least one tap stand closer to Adeleida’s house than the church, but I’ll need to confirm that.

Additional context about next steps for El Llanito EWB project

Our first Engineers Without Borders (EWB) team, working on the El Llanito water supply project, left Nicaragua 9 January. Our second team arrived on the 7th so we had overlap and opportunity to do a handoff.

Our Responsible Engineer In Charge (REIC), Phil Bowman, and the new arrivals left on 18 January.

I posted about Phil’s summary, but want to add this for context. We are so pleased with the community engagement and all the work they have accomplished. They have completed almost all of the trenching – much faster than we had anticipated.

We’re monitoring our estimated cost to complete and still have some uncertainties that may require additional fundraising, but with the Rotary Global Grant and EWB funds, we are going to be close. If you want to support the work in this community you can donate online at:

In addition to ensuring completion of this first project, together with the water committee we have identified a number of potential follow on projects.

You can see the other progress posts at the site as well as this one.

Successful Early Implementation trip for EWB El Llanito, Nicaragua

Thanks Phil, Great report!

Congratulations to the team, the water committee, the community, and Alcance, for making such wonderful progress on this important project.

In the kickoff meeting, Bayardo Obando from Alcance told the story of how the community has wanted and worked on this water project since 1996. It touched me in terms of how important it is for us to complete this with them.

Phil gets kudos for managing the workflow through the entire two-team visit, as does Javier for supporting us long-distance in dealing with tough questions about the design.

We had wonderful support from the Nicaragua country office.
It was extraordinarily valuable to have the UC Berkeley members participating – and fun to see how the youngsters enjoyed them so much.

The progress during this trip dramatically exceeded my expectations.

Thanks again to everyone who made it possible.

Now comes the push to complete the rest of the design and get approval for next trip. the community is eager to get it done.
Thanks again to all.

On Sunday, 19 January, Phil Bowman, our Responsible Engineer In Charge (REIC), wrote:

We finished up our Early Implementation Trip yesterday.  This was a very productive 3 weeks.  The community has been exceptionally enthusiastic about our work and the Water Committee has demonstrated excellent leadership.
Besides the literally hundreds of volunteers who contributed to the effort, we have worked particularly closely with the head mason/contractor Martin and his key support lead Juan Antonio.  They have both been excellent to partner with, and despite our language challenges, we’ve been able to communicate fairly effectively.  I’ve learned quite a bit from Martin about smart building and masonry techniques.  He and Juan have been invaluable resources for out team.

On our last day, the Water Committee held a wrap up meeting followed by a rousing dance party!

Some of the accomplishments from this trip:

  • Well Support Building: Nearly completed the Well Support Building. Remaining tasks are just to put on the roof and install the doorways. Our EWB team participated in some areas – we filled the blocks with grout and smoothed the mortar – but Martin and his team really did nearly everything.
  • Trenches: The community completed digging about 90% fo the trenches – sometimes even through some remarkably rocky terrain with ice chest sized boulders. The remaining trench work is either some stretches where the volunteer families just haven’t yet had time to do their apportionment, some stream crossings where we’ll have to combine deep trenches, galvanized pipe and concrete overlays to protect the pipeline from the heavy winter runoffs. The UC students also had a chance to dig some trenches with support from some locals.
  • Tank Site: The UC students performed a site survey for the tank location confirming ability to place two tanks with room for a third for future expansion if needed. We also identified available space for French Drains.
  • Leak Tester: Developed a field pipeline leak test fixture. This device has two parts to connect onto both the top and bottom sections of a pipeline to be tested. With this device we should be able to verify our pipelines are leak-free before burying them in trenches. We also trained Martin and Juan Antonio on its operation and the UC students wrote up a 2-page operating procedure for it.
  • Fixture Installations: Installed at least one each of almost all the different types of fixtures: tap stands, pipeline junction boxes, air release valve boxes.
  • Break-Pressure Tanks: We ran out of time to complete the break-pressure tanks, but Martin made the wood forms for the tanks and we walked through the design drawings in detail to make sure he completely understood it.
  • Thrust Blocks: They also put in at least one thrust block to hold the pipe fittings in place where there is a change in flow direction.
  • Pipeline Survey: We walked the pipeline from the well to the tanks and reviewed mitigation procedures to avoid contamination from a nearby latrine. (Namely, they will encase the pipeline in concrete for at least 75 feet near the latrine location.)
  • Aerial Photos: Pat contracted with a local aerial survey company to capture calibrated drone photographs of the community to help with precise geolocation of pipeline fixtures and other features for now and future enhancements. The drone pilot made some initial flights, but weather has caused a delay in their completion.
  • Material Supplies: We ordered and received material for nearly the entire ~4000 meter pipeline.
  • Water Meters: We accepted a small but very valuable growth in scope: the CAPS wanted a method to hold water users accountable for their usage so we are adding a water meter to each tap stand. This serves multiple purposes: until the well can be confirmed to continuously supply a higher volume of water, the CAPS can enforce conservative limits on water use; secondly, if the well proves reliable at higher volumes, the community would like to consider offering water lines directly to each home, so by managing water meters now, the CAPS will gain water management experience and metrics for these future applications. The UC students assembled about 20 of these and provided written instruction on their assembly process.
  • Cable from Tank Site to Well: We measured out three lengths of 240m each to reach from the storage tanks to the Well Support Building. These cables will allow pump on/off controls based on water levels in the tanks. Our team trained Martin and Juan Antonio on how to thread these cables through a 1.5 inch PVC pipeline. Our UC students also documented this procedure with photos of the process.
  • Tap Stand Location Adjustments and Mapping: While walking the planned pipeline route through the entire community, Pat and our team worked with the Water Committee to mark specific locations for tap stands. We also accepted recommendations for additional tap stands, in some cases requiring extensions to the pipeline. These requests were evaluated by our hydrodynamics engineer Javier to determine whether our gravity-fed system could accommodate them. GPS way points were marked for each tap stand allowing mapping apps to pinpoint their location using phone apps.
  • Plan for Continued Work: Together with Elizabeth Diaz and Eveling Rodriguez, we firmed up our plans for providing oversight of the work continuing in the community. We will start with daily WhatsApp calls, sliding to weekly calls as appropriate. Eveling is planning to be on-site once a week to start to provide an opportunity for face-to-face issue resolution if necessary.
  • PMEL Surveys: The survey materials were provided to Luz from Alcance. We believe she may be more effective at getting the community to provide honest answers on these questionnaires.
  • Potential Projects in Neighboring Villages: Alcance leads drove our team members to nearby communities experiencing different challenges where EWB may be able to support in future projects. For example, one nearby village had their wells dry up. Currently, they rely on water trucked in to fill their home water tanks, but this is not a long term solution. Other communities were in dire need of bridges to allow transportation in and out of their villages during rainy seasons. They also showed us examples of Eco-Stoves for effective, low-pollution wood burning stoves.
Household (25 in total) tank filled by water truck

Bridge destroyed by floods (one of several)

Ecological stove with chimney to the outside y el gato encontrando un lugar cálido

Our team also had the pleasure of visiting a local landmark. We hiked up to the top of La Peńa Labrada, a ridge of shear scenic cliffs and rocks towering above La Llanito. The hike was about 6.5 miles round trip with 2500 ft gross elevation gain up some beautiful (and very muddy) trails.
We’ve also had an excellent cultural exchange. We became very attached to our host families. At Zeleyda’s house where we had all our meals, we became temporary members of their extended family with lots of kids running around the entire time. We taught each other hand-clapping games and card games that seemed to run on continuously. Almost every time we stopped by Zeleyda’s we’d hear “jugar las cartas?” (“play cards?”) We enjoyed Egyptian War (thanks Pamela), Go Fish (pescador), Old Maid (chanchona), and manzana – one of a few other complicated games I can’t remember. 8-year-old Darrel would come over from across the street carrying his chess board. In his competitions with UC Berkeley students, Darrel won all but one game I think.
Our hosts were very welcoming Darwin and his kids put up with me for three weeks. They’ve been very gracious always making sure we had plenty of water for drinking and bathing.
Lucia has hosted two of our women students for the last ~12 days. She has a beautiful home.
And Zeleyda and her mother Asucena have not only hosted three of our women students but they have cooked all our wonderful meals, usually accompanied with fantastic fresh fruit juices.
The community is very anxious to have us come back soon and complete their water system!
A few pics from the trip are below. We have many many more photos; I’ll set up a folder on the Google drive shortly to post them all.

The Community Meeting with 167 attendees:

The Community Meeting with 167 attendees

Ground Breaking on the Well Support Building. Some of the key people with shovels are Martin (lead mason / supervisor), Marivel (Water Committee), Eugenio (Water Committee) and Luz (Alcance):

Ground Breaking on the Well Support Building

Digging the trenches. 169 volunteers came out the first week to dig trenches. By the time we left, 90% of the trenches were completed.

Digging the trenches

Pat with Adelayda from the Water Committee mapping out specific tap stand locations:

Mapping and staking tap stand locations and proposed changes

Foundation completed for the Well Support Building:

Foundation completed for Well Support Building

Day off hike up to the top of La Peña Labrada:

Hike to top of La Peña Labrada

Overlap Day with both teams in the trenches. Claire, Kishan, Pamela, Sage, Alara, Pat, Phil and Tuana:

Overlap Day with both teams in the trenches

Nightly Card Games:

Nightly Card Games

Pipeline Pressure Tester:

Pipeline Pressure Tester

Structure of Well Support Building completed. Just the roof and door left to put on. (Juan Antonio climbed a tall tree to get this photo.)

Structure of Well Support Building completed

Leaving Gamboa, Panama

I’m was at Canopy B&B, waiting for ride to airport. Now I’m in line at the airport.

I had great time here. I came to visit Andrew Quitmeyer, at Digital Naturalism Laboratories (DINA: via invitation from Shannon Dosemagen, long-time Public Lab friend. You can see what Public Lab is about at:

I’d been intrigued by a map and 3-D model of Gamboa that Andy had made from a drone flight. I brought my new Mavic Mini that I had maybe 6 min of flight time with. Andy coached me, and we flew a section of Gamboa Marsh where a music festival had fumigated and dumped a load of gravel inappropriately. So it was a live, real use case. We took over 300 photos, at 2-second intervals, from 100 m, flying manually.

We started a map in Mapknitter, then I used Drone Deploy’s trial offer to make a map and 3D model.

Andy also introduced me to Andrew Coates. His firm Cresolus ( specializes in architecture and construction in the tropics. We were able to talk briefly and he’s interested in helping come up with an open source design with very simple IKEA-like instructions for building houses that might be used at the Belize Open Source – Sustainable Development site. It is convenient that he is already working in Belize for a government of Belize project funded by World Bank, to renovate a repurpose an old forest station with ~ 40 buildings, on the way to the Carocol Mayan ruins. He’s also renovated the facilities at The Thousand Foot Falls in the mountain pine ridge area of Belize. Andrew had great ideas about how one might approach this similar to a boat building company out of Chesapeake Bay. They offer

kits that you can buy and make yourself

classes where you can come and learn and build your own

or they build and deliver to you

Andrew talked about his Panama hut initiative which has trained builders to fabricate and then be able to flat pack and send the small very nice units. See:

I emailed Andy and Andrew that I was sure glad we were able to chat for a few minutes. Very productive!

I sent a PDF of the dual vault composting latrine design package, as well as the bill of materials, for the ones that we’ve been doing for ~ $415 per unit cost in Nicaragua (111 to date, with another Rotary global grant nearing approval to do 80 more in seven communities.)

I also sent link to the drum-based composting toilet system I spoke of separately.

I stressed I appreciate what Andrew is doing and the opportunity to try and partner on a vision for the little Belize place.

I think the open source construction manual, training workshops, sponsorship for the local Belizeans to become certified builders, all really sounds terrific.

After, Andrew wrote, “Good to talk to you.I love the idea of creating a simple tropical home that is kit built from an “IKEA” guide. Available to all.”

I also used another cloud based software to process a test set of photos from our El Llanito, Nicaragua water supply aerial image contractor who flew tests from up the hill to sector 5 in the community, just reaching our areas of active trenching (visible on far right side) in this scaled small sample aerial map. The preliminary results are encouraging for being able to map our project.

Test from processed aerial images

You can also download the results (in a BIG zip file) from:

Phil Bowman, our responsible engineer in charge (REIC) indicated winds that stopped them have stayed too high, so they will coordinate with EWB Nica Country Office and the water committee (CAPS) on when to return.

Phil and the team have continued to make great progress on the well support building and other tasks.

Installing the plumb lines to ensure the cement blocks are laid level and straight
Alara, Claire and Tuana help with the grout
We were able to coordinate with Martin and Maribel today on trench digging. Our UC Berkeley chapter colleagues were assigned a stretch of trench to dig near Zeleyda’s house

Great start on El Llanito, Nicaragua water supply project

We are here, doing well. Community is going faster than we anticipated. 167 people came to kickoff meeting that CAPS (legally recognized water committee) set agenda for and ran very effectively.

We broke ground on the well support building foundation excavation and for the two pressure break tanks. We staked and marked the route for the pipeline. 

Today over 100 people started at 6 AM excavating for the pipeline.

Forms for pressure break tanks were constructed.

Here are a few photos.

Engineers Without Borders San Francisco Professionals SFari event

On October 5, 2018, 80 plus people came to celebrate and make a difference in someone’s life by supporting Engineers Without Borders at our our annual year-end gala, SFari!

Hayley Farr posted a great set of photos (including one above) at:!AsdKbwUtJTl3hJkfrBua2R8cM4VH2Q

All proceeds from the event will go directly to our projects in Haiti, Kenya, Fiji, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

We enjoyed a night of music and fun with a DJ and a full cash bar as well as a silent auction and raffle. Volunteer teams were available to talk to people and learn more about the work we do in partnership with communities around the world.

There were items from restaurants, wine cellars, breweries, climbing gyms, the zoo, and much more in our silent auction and raffle along with baskets put together by each of our project teams, with goodies brought back from their partner communities.

Thanks for all who supported it, including our generous corporate sponsors

Visit our website ( for more information about our chapter.

Thanks for helping us build a better world!

Rotarian Foundation Strategic Retreat

The Rotarian Foundation of Livermore Board met with Genevieve Getman-Sowa for a strategic retreat.

Background: In 1987, the two Rotary Clubs in Livermore established the Rotarian Foundation of Livermore. As a public charity, it provides support to create opportuniees for young people, promote community service, and improve the quality of life for the benefit of all in the Livermore Valley.

We’re looking at our go-forward approach.

Engineers Without Borders – San Francisco Professional chapter annual fundraising gala, SFari 2017

We had a great time at our Engineers Without Borders – San Francisco Professional chapter annual fundraising gala, SFari 2017, at 111 Minna Gallery in San Francisco on Thursday, October 19th.

Our El Llanito Nicaragua project team had a gift basket for the silent auction, a poster, and we showed video and photos about our project to implement a water pumping, storage and distribution system based on an existing well in the community of El Llanito, near the municipality of Santa Lucia, Nicaragua.

Our Appropriate Technology Design Team (Research and Development Group) Nicaragua project team had a gift basket for the silent auction, a poster, and we showed photos about our completed project to do almost 90 more urine-diverting-dual-vault composting toilets in four communities: El Llanito and Los Alvarez, near Santa Lucia; and El Tunel, and La Prusia near Masaya.

In this video Daniel, is removing compost from his composting latrine. He’s been using his since the 2010 deployment. He and his wife have participated in the community workshops for the 2014 and recently completed project, sharing their experience and answering questions.


This event gives our EWB chapter the chance to fund raise through ticket sales, a raffle, and silent auction. The event also brings EWB SF chapter members together with the community with approximately 150 people at the fundraiser, and provides a space for all seven project teams to show and explain their projects, make connections with the community, and recruit new team members.

We were successful in bidding on El Llanito team member, Susan Witebsky’s, beutiful pottery.

Our chapter has seven active project teams. ( This event supports all of our projects in these communities and we focus on the needs that were proposed to us which could be sanitation, healthcare, water access, or a variety of other issues that developing world communities face.

For more information on these projects, please visit our website at

2017 Engineers Without Borders (EWB-USA) Conference

Thursday, 10/4/17

At 2017 EWB-USA Conference in Milwaukee, I arrived in time to check into the hotel, catch the end of the reception and say hello to some colleagues. Then we watched Before the Flood, an hour an a half long documentary, that takes a look at how climate change affects our environment and what society can do to prevent the demise of endangered species, ecosystems and native communities across the planet.

Afterwards, we discussed the film and what we might be able to do to address climate change. During the discussions, I heard strong recommendations for the book Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, edited by Paul Hawken.

Friday, 10/5/17

Cathy Leslie’s introduction noted it is the 15th anniversary of Engineering Without Borders USA (EWB-USA). The talks are due to be posted online, but weren’t as this was posted. Check back at the conference link 2017 EWB-USA Conference.

Cathy Leslie introduction
Cathy Leslie introduction

We heard keynote speaker, Paul Schmitz, author of Everyone Leads: Building Leadership from the Community Up.

Climate Change Session

Kevin Hagen introduced the adaption to climate change session.

Mike Paddock spoke to an example of an Engineering Service Corps hydro-electric recommissioning assessment and implementation initiated by a community in Central America. The recommissioned system can generate 60kw of greenhouse gas free power.

Kevin Hagen spoke to solar mini-grids in UNHCR refuge camps, with funding from Ikea.

Kevin Andrezejewski spoke to ESC irrigation, crop waste re-use, and crop cooling initiatives.

Gerard Daizel spoke to International Community Program (ICP) climate impacted projects. Showed an example of Misuuni Water project in Kenya, with extreme climate impact considerations.

During breakout sessions, I took flip chart notes for Mike Paddock’s EWB Operations.

Frank Bergh led the Energy session.

Session facilitators recappped sessions: noting risks, opportunities, actions, and metrics.

  • Kevin Hagen summarized next steps:
  • Hiring climate focus engineer
  • Forming climate change committee

Lunch, Keynote

In keynote by Joby Taylor, from the Schriver Center at UMBC, he liked the “Without Borders” aspect, and programs that encourage us to think globally – as if we have two passports: one for our country and one as a global citizen or human being.

He joked about having dropped off Chris Bleers, EWB-USA Director of Operations, at his Peace Corps village assignment. He showed EWB-USA’s vision and mission statements, spoke to them. Then showed the Peace Corps’.

He showed photos of his first Peace Corp assignment in Gabon, Africa, and his experience with the villagers who showed him the old abandoned school on a flat soccer field. But then they walked to the new school site on a steep hillside where he was to build the new school with them. He argued it was the wrong spot, but they were adamant.

He quoted Thích Nhất Hạnh, Vietnamese Buddhist monk, peace activist, and mindfulness advocate. “Don’t just do something, sit there.” He used it. Listened deeply. He learned the hillside was between the two smaller villages. The communities chose the location so, during construction and afterwards, both groups would own it, and their children would go to it. He got it – realized they knew this was necessary for the the success and sustainability of the new school.

He spoke of:

  • Values: working with, collaborating, community assets – “go up country” – find yourself in the community you serve, work with deep cultural understanding and return with deep cultural knowledge.
  • The book, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, by Gloria Anzaldu and her notion of borders – in this case, “…This is my home, this thin edge of barb wire…a 1900 mile open wound…of  her needing to think sin fronteras to survive…”
  • The Peace Corp and EWB work and how these borderlands and our crossings change us.

Earlier in the day, he’d learned of and strongly supported the work of the EWB-USA offices in Guatemala and Nicaragua. He challenged them to also offer deep crosscultural learning to teams.

He discussed the Baltimore Highway to Nowhere, built 40 years ago as part of slum cleaning, and the tough neighborhood that it has impacted. However, now he works there and there is lots of organizing – it’s a borderlands, with projects emerging. He recommended Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, as the urban planning book to read.

Joby encouraged us to work locally as well as internationally. He spoke to his view of hope as a commitment rather than a feeling or prediction, but as a life orientation, as a core commitment to resisting cynicism, resisting closing ourselves to others and the world. He cited Howard Zinn’s, The Optimism of Uncertainty,  and closed with quotes from Schriver:

“What can change the world today is the same thing that has changed it in the past-an idea and the service of dedicated, committed individuals to that idea.”

and Mead:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Energy: Basics, Design, and Applications session

Larry Bentley discussed Assessing Community power Options. His talk was chock full of real world electrical practices and photos.

Louis Woofenden discussed solar system design. He walked the group through a lighting example with design conditions, use of resources, and assumptions to design a system.

A team from Walla Walla University chapter and their faculty advisors discussed their solar systems in Japura, Peru.

Their advisers emphasized:

  • Empowerment of the students in working the EWB project process logistics
  • Why electricity was a priority in the community for students to study and so women could do their handicraft work at night.

They discussed how they facilitated helping the community find their new partners – vendors and installation technicians. They spoke of lessons learned: 16 other communities expressed interest in partnering, so the community was pleased and spreading the word. Keeping the students front and center in the interactions with the community and the project management was key.

The students discussed the shift from the hydro, the community initially recommended, to solar as a number of issues emerged. Their team sent a group to bond with the community for a summer and prototyped the solar systems. They needed to translate from English to Spanish to Quechua.

Their video does a superb job showing the community, the work, and testimonials from the families. Great aerial images.

Libby Jones, advisor for University of Nebraska, discussed lessons learned from installation of solar lights in schools in Madagascar.

  1. Be prepared. Went expecting water , but … solar popped up
  2. Listen carefully and check translations, in MOU added “community buildings” – in translation meant “teachers’ houses” – big gap in expectations
  3. Start with a pilot project if possible
  4. Build similar/identical systems in the U. S.
  5. A well prepared and trained team is a happy team! Then they could slow down and really talk with community members, do hands on training to be sure they understood.
  6. Failure to follow lessons 4 & 5 is bad
  7. The customer is always right
  8. Follow the checklist from the Standing Content Committee (SCC)
  9. Know the strengths and limitations of your travel mentor
  10. Politics are everywhere
  11. Listen, Listen, Listen
  12. Sometimes it rains

Afterwards, a number of us met regarding the go-forward approach to the Research and Development (R&D) Group projects in the context of the Engineering Service Corps. In this and numerous other conversations, partnering with Rotary came up repeatedly.

Then we walked to the Milwaukee Art Museum for an awards reception. Mike Paddock, long-time resident, provided a well-informed commentary of the sights along the way.

Saturday, 10/6/17:

Cathy Leslie spoke to the view ahead to, and beyond, 2020.

  • Want 5 country offices serving 50% of country programs
  • Need to be strategic about where we work – some countries are not safe or secure, others have sufficient in-country resources

She introduced the panel for Engineering Environmental Justice: the human right to water and sanitation in the US: Colin Bailey, EJCW; Catherine Flowers, ACRE; Duane “Chili” Yazzie, Navajo Nation.

Colin Bailey, Environmental Justice Coalition for Water (EJCW), spoke to issues in California, and the organizing which led to 2012 CA law making water and sanitation a human right, which continues to hold enforcement accountable, and to partnerships resulting in a national coalition formed in 2015. He challenged us to join the coalition and embrace social and environmental justice.

Showed video illustrating problems with contaminated water in CA. Their website has a longer version, Thirsty for Justice: The struggle for the human right to water.

Catherine Flowers, Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise (ACRE), spoke to being from Lowndes County, and the history of Alabama’s Black Belt, ongoing issues, and the new norm of climate change. On-site waste treatment in their area is not working. Raw sewage contaminates yards and backs up into homes. She wants to inspire a waste water challenge. Poor families are expected to deal with the problems on their own.


Showed video illustrating problems. Here is a longer video where Catherine Flowers provides additional background.

Duane “Chili” Yazzie, Navajo Nation, spoke in Navajo, then in English, introducing himself by his clan. He spoke of how indigenous peoples guard their relationship to the earth and their original instructions for their lifeways.

Water is sacred to be respected, as are other fundamental elements. He asked us to consider our children and grandchildren.

He shared a writing he wants to be promulgated, read it. I’d like to find it all, but in part it spoke of: …our relationship with a living Mother Earth…the need to end exploitation, defend the life of all…of our responsibility to understand and do what we can to save our earth and our life…

Showed video of Gold King Mine August 2015 spill, a release of effluent into the Animas River and on into the San Juan River – unbelievable – over three million gallons of waste with Arsenic, Mercury, and other toxics.

The tribal leadership decided not to allow the contaminated water onto crops, so they were damaged, lost over 75%. His request to us is to evaluate the Department of Interior proposed alternatives, that range from $200M up. He said his people need help, perhaps more than other countries around world.

Use of Technology in Development Session

Gerard Daizel opened the Use of Technology in Development session and introduced McKenna Roberts, Mapping Project Sites with GPS Tracking Apps.

She gave a great talk emphasizing the broader issues of what needs to be on a map, for what purposes, and how gps data supports that. She did a live demo of their selected iPhone app, GPS Tracks, and noted the ability to compensate for the vertical accuracy limitation of the phone gps by opening the data from the app in Google Earth to get a more accurate elevation profile based on the Google Earth data.

Jake Mireles presented on Technology Prototyping Using SketchUp (SU) and Virtual Reality.

Showed workflow to place SU models in Google Earth.

Also rendering in Virtual Reality (VR), using Prospect VR.

Noted how in an immersive VR evaluation of the biodigester, people went from Wow! to workflow, through direct interaction with the model.

Poster Sessions

After lunch, I participated in judging the poster sessions. I’d left by the time the winners were announced:

El Balsamar, El Salvador Composting Latrine Project, Detroit Professionals/Michigan State University

A One-Charge Incubator for Inexpensive In-Field Analysis of Water Quality, Greater Austin Chapter

Working with El Amate, Guatemala, Kansas State University

VR demonstration by Jake Mireles

I observed and participated in a very popular VR demo by Jake Mireles.

This playlist has two videos of people interacting in the VR environment (including this author).

IEEE Special Session

Cathy Leslie introduced Kartik Kulkarni and his talk on IEEE’s Approach, Programs, and Contributions to the Sustainable Development Sector. He noted the EWB, IEEE, and ASME collaboration on Engineering for Change.

Ray Larsen discussed IEEE’s Smart Village Program. He noted the focus on Electricity, Education, and Enterprise. Approach is to use local entrepreneurs to ensure sustainability. It’s all about business and education.


I had to leave early for my flight home. I was glad to have been there to see old friends, make new ones, and be jumpstarted, reminded why this work is important and how fortunate we are to be able to do it together.

At the airport, this sign just past security screening, caught my eye. I really liked Milwaukee.

Day of EWB-SFP Golden Gate Bridge Walk/Bike fundraiser

Thanks to all for supporting our Engineers Without Borders San Francisco Professional Chapter (EWB-SFP) Golden Gate Bridge Walk/Bike fundraiser.

The walk is over, but you can still donate at the site.

It was an absolutely glorious day in terms of the weather and the company.

Kathy and I drove in and parked near the Ferry Building. We caught a Lyft to the meetup at the Visitor’s Center.

I’ve uploaded photos from the day (click on the photo below to see the Flikr album):


We ran this fundraising event in conjunction with our Engineers Without Borders – San Francisco Professional chapter annual fundraising gala, SFari 2017, at 111 Minna Gallery in San Francisco on Thursday, October 19th beginning at 7PM.  This event gives our EWB chapter the chance to fund raise through ticket sales, a raffle, and silent auction. The event also brings EWB SF chapter members together with the community with approximately 150 people at the fundraiser, and provides a space for all seven project teams to show and explain their projects, make connections with the community, and recruit new team members. If you are in the Bay Area, please join us. Get tickets and more information here.

Our chapter has seven active project teams. ( Our online campaign goes to supporting all of our projects in these communities and we focus on the needs that were proposed to us which could be sanitation, healthcare, water access, or a variety of other issues that developing world communities face.

For more information on these projects, please visit our website at

If you can’t participate or make a donation at this point, help us reach our goal by sharing this page on Facebook and Twitter! Or, even better, send an e-mail to friends you think might be interested in contributing and include a link to our page!

We truly appreciate any support you can provide. Thank you!