Potable Water Supply,

Dorgobom, Ghana


The EWB Portland Maine Chapter (EWB-PMP) teamed with the Community Directed Development Foundation (CDDF) to support a potable water project for the village of Dorgobom, Ghana.


Dorgobom is a very poor community in the Ada region of Ghana.  They are farmers with no safe water supply.  Approximately 30% of the village has been diagnosed with malaria, and schistosomiasis, whipworm, and hookworm are also too prevalent.  Although malaria is transmitted via mosquitoes, schistosomiasis is an infection caused by parasitic flatworms known as schistosomes and is contracted from contact with contaminated water.  Hookworm and whipworm parasites live in soils, but clean water is needed for sanitation and further prevention.

The women of Dorgobom carry water from the local pond for their families needs.  Each woman makes three to four trips per day to provide enough water to supply a family of five.  The water is extremely turbid and must be filtered prior to consumption.  If they have the means, they also may purchase alum to kill biological contamination; however, only about 10% of the village has the means to purify their water so that it is safe.

The groundwater in the region is encountered within a gneiss formation (coincidentally, this is the same rock formation that is used for most Portland curbs), and the water within the bedrock is saline.  Therefore, a groundwater supply well will not solve the problem.

What’s Next?

EWB-USA’s core mission / vision focus is on meaningful, long-term relationships with communities and an insistence on excellence in engineering solutions for those communities. In the absence of much needed, long-awaited feedback and data from the community, we’re unable to determine any meaningful next steps for the project.

April 2013

In ApShanta - April 2013 Ghana Tripril 2013, the EWB-PMP team performed health surveys for the community and tested some moringa seed water treatment options. The moringa tree is locally grown and the seeds have multiple uses, including those that have health benefits. Among them is that the seeds can be used to flocculate out the clay particles in the surface pond water.

March 2012

In March 2012, our team successfully completed another trip to work with our friends in Dorgobom. We had three tasks to complete in 12 days:

  • Completion of the Rain Water Harvest System
  • Library Book Donation
  • Roughing Filter Pilot Test

Rain Water Harvest System

After learning that our pilot test was successful and that the community not only was using our small-scale rain water harvest system, but kept it in good repair and worked out a system for effective use. The EWB-PMP team (along with a LOT of help from the community and students) expanded the system around the school, adding five more tanks so that the system now collects enough water from 0.2 inches of rain to provide water for the entire community for one day! We also provided a long-term maintenance program for ensuring that stagnant water is cleaned and that the tanks and gutters remain in good repair.

Library Book Donation

Thank to generous donations from friends, family, and the Rotary Club of Mexico, Maine, we were able to bring over 150 pound of books to the community school. The books were a welcome donation and were immediately cataloged and constitute the start of the School Library. Additional book donations are always welcome!

Roughing Filter Pilot Test

Using the results of other roughing filters completed in Ghana, our team designed two pilot tests that were run for over a month to determine if the native rock media could provide a sufficient filter system to render the pond water safe to drink. Although we saw some improvements, after the test was completed, it was determined that sand filtering was not effective as the particles in the water were too fine. Although the results were disappointing, we now have more data on the challenges of treating very fine, clay-size particles in water. We also learned that a local plant may be the ‘silver bullet’ we need!

Moringa oleifera

The moringa tree grows everywhere in the community and their leaves and seeds are used for medicinal uses. Thanks to some research on our part, we determined that the seeds also work as a flocculent, providing positively charged particles that bind to the clay particles in the water – forming heavy colloids that can then sink within the vessel – providing clean, safe water.

CDDF mentions this project in two articles.
Engineers Without Borders Visit Dorgobom
CDDF President Pays a Working Visit to Dorgobom

March 2011

Five members of our chapter returned from a Dorgobom assessment trip in March 2011.  The mission was a huge success.  We were able to install our first rainwater harvesting system pilot test.  The pilot was a small-scale system that used the school roof to collect rainwater.  Based on the design, with 3/10 of an inch of rain, we will be able to provide the community 3000L (approx. 800 gallons) of fresh water.  The community has already taken responsibility for the upkeep and maintenance of the system and is eager for the next expansion. We received word on April 7th that it rained for an hour and the tank filled to the top; the water was clean and the whole community had their first share of potable water!!!

In addition to the rainwater harvesting system, we were also able to collect survey information around the pond and the school. This will be critical in designing the water filtration system that will be installed on an upcoming trip to Dorgobom. Our team was warmly welcomed by both CDDF and the Dorgobom community.  As we continue to work together, we grow closer and better understand why we are all in this together.

Dorgobom PowerPoint Presentation

Roughing Filtration Paper – Abridged

Roughing Filtration Paper – Full Length

Community School,

Debre Birhan, Ethiopia

Colleen Kaleda, co-director/founder of The Community Project Ethiopia, meeting with members of the community of Debre Birhan

Engineers Without Borders teams with The Community Project: Ethiopia to increase public health through education and sanitation in Kabele 06 in Debre Birhan.

Debre Birhan continues even though travel has been suspended due to civil unrest in Ethiopia.

Welcome Ceremony

The Community School

The Community School will be for all ages K-10, the older children helping the younger ones so parents will know they are safe and cared for. This foundation of community, the nurturing, safety and growth of children will be the centerpiece of the project.

The Community Center

The Community Center will be a community meeting place to help people of all ages connect and thrive. The large community center will house classes for adults, special meetings, a place for children to play inside, out of the sun and rains. Community meals, health care, celebrations and job training will bring the villagers together. Separate smaller rooms may contain a library and donated computers for homework and job-seekers connecting to the world.

The Community Garden

The Community Garden will be within the school/community center complex. It will provide the village a place to learn about growing their own healthy vegetables, fruits and herbs. With a dedicated manager and a nearby water source, healthy food crops will be grown and shared. School children and others can come for hands-on gardening, planting, sharing the harvest and saving the seeds for a new season. The Community Garden has the potential to give and grow for generations to come.

Young girl from the village

Fall 2015

We have made five trips to Debre Birhan to date, with three of those trips occurring this past fall to support the commencement of school construction.  School construction is scheduled to be completed later this year. A track and soccer field are also being constructed.

July 2015

The Portland Maine Professionals and the Portland State University Student Chapters conducted a monitoring trip in July 2015. The purpose of the monitoring trip was to determine if pilot facilities were accessible and functional for the community and if the design latrine was adopted by the community.

March 2015

The Portland Maine Professionals and the Portland State University Student Chapters completed the third assessment trip to Debre Birhan, Ethiopia March 19 through March 29, 2015. The focus of their trip was to assess the urine diversion toilet basin, masonry construction using stone materials, compressed earth block making, and develop a materials and construction schedule for the community school building.

December 2014

The Portland State University Student Chapter (EWB-PSU) constructed latrines. Two masonry structures were completed during the December 2015 implementation trip. Foundations were excavated for both latrines and reinforced concrete footings were poured. CMU walls were constructed, floor slabs were poured and roof trusses were fabricated and installed on both structures. Community health surveys will be used in the future to collect data on typical restroom practices. This data will be used to help the team design an education program on the proper use of composting latrines. The team also made technical presentations at both Debre Birhan University (DBU) and Addis Ababa Science and Technology University (AASTU). These two universities have since signed Memorandum of Understanding agreements with Portland State University. These MOU’s offer valuable in-country engineering assistance and expertise to the project.

May 2014

Our second assessment trip took place in May 2014. We gathered a material list and costs and we performed a site survey on the new site location.

September 2013

Student Chapters

University of Maine EWB Student Chapter (EWB-UM)

Dulce Vivir, Honduras Project.  The University of Maine Engineers Without Borders Student Chapter (EWB-UM) partnered with the community of Dulce Vivir in the municipality of Dulce Nombre de Copan, Honduras. To improve public health in Dulce Vivir, EWB-UM partnered with the community to plan and design a community-wide subsurface wastewater collection and disposal system.  Once the design was completed, construction was implemented in two phases.  Phase 1 occurred in March 2011 and included installing the piping network that forms the collection system. Phase 2 occurred in March 2012 and included installation of septic tanks and a subsurface disposal system.

La Y de la Laguna, Ecuador Project.  La Y de la Laguna is a community of approximately 300 people located the North Western region of Ecuador. EWB-UM began working with the community of La Y in the fall of 2013, and worked with La Y to develop a drinking water supply and distribution system for the village.  The people of La Y had obtained their water from a combination of sources, including rainwater collection during the rainy season, carrying water in buckets from seasonal springs, and purchasing water in barrels from a truck which brought water from a river 8 km away. EWB-UM plans included providing La Y with a pump and pipe system in order to provide a more reliable and local source of water to the community.

For more information, visit the EWB-UMaine website.

University of Southern Maine EWB Student Chapter (EWB-USM)

Guatemala City, Guatemala Project.  The University of Southern Maine Engineers Without Borders Student Chapter (EWB-USM) partnered with Hogar Rafael Aayu (HRA) in Guatemala to design and build a solar hot water system for HRA’s orphanage.  Located in “Zone 1” which is Guatemala City’s toughest neighborhood, this block-wide orphanage is protected by a 30-foot wall and armed guards. In Guatemala, the cost of electricity is cost prohibitive for most applications, especially water heating. The children at the orphanage and most of the surrounding community had never taken hot showers, or used on demand hot water for sanitation purposes. EWB-USM was asked by the HRA to design and install an inexpensive, efficient solar hot water system that could be easily maintained by the HRA and with materials that can be locally sourced. EWB-USM traveled to Guatemala for their first project assessment trip in February 2015.