Pueblo Nuevo is a rural population of farmers and factory workers with a population of about 1500 people. Although the town had an existing gravity-fed system with taps in most homes the water source was contaminated with bacteria and parasites. It was estimated that fifty percent of the town’s health issues were due to waterborne illness. Furthermore, the existing system had issues with availability and the town would often lose water pressure during times of peak demand.
Lehigh University originally learned about the water problem in Pueblo Nuevo through members of an archaeology program that traveled to the area. Students created a chapter of EWB-USA and teams traveled to the town for a preliminary evaluation in the summer of 2006. The team designed a 20,000-gallon water storage tank for the town of Pueblo Nuevo to combat the water quantity problem. The tank is located at a higher elevation than the rest of the town, which will enables water to be gravity-fed from the tank to every home. Water is fed to the tank from an existing spring with help from a pump. Construction of this tank was finished in the fall of 2008.
In January 2009, club started recruiting students and faculty from International Relations to help with social issues in the town. The new branch of the club made a lot of progress in helping the town accept the project. The group attended an evangelical church service and gave a brief presentation about the project. They conducted community surveys to gauge community awareness and support of the project. Furthermore, a plan for creating a water board was devised. The social team held a town meeting at the soccer field to discuss the importance of the water board. This eventually led to the creation of a Junta de Agua: a democratically elected citizens’ water board. The purpose of the water board is to keep the town informed, collect payments, and maintain the system.
In May 2009, the pipe route was laid out and digging of pipe trenches began. Construction of the electrical and foundation work for the pump house was also completed. The social team met with teachers to gain a better understanding of the education system. They partnered with a science class in Pueblo Nuevo and taught them about performing water tests. In January 2010, the piping system was completed, the tank waterproofed, a hypochlorinator installed. A camera exchange and pen-pal program between the children of Pueblo Nuevo and middle-school children in Bethlehem, PA reinforced the education about the system and create a cultural exchange between the students.
LU-EWB will continue to follow up with Pueblo Nuevo to ensure that the new water system is working properly. The water will be tested periodically to guarantee that it is safe and is being maintained properly.