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Thailand Project

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The village of Nong Bua has no potable water. The people there have made numerous attempts to drill wells to provide cheap, clean water, but to no avail. This has forced the already poverty-stricken people of this farming community to purchase costly bottled water.

When Carole Ketnourath, D. Michael Shafer and Chatree Saokaew from the NGO Warm Heart heard about this through a community health worker, they decided to act. Professor Shafer, a founding member of Warm Heart and a Rutgers University professor, contacted the Rutgers chapter of EWB-USA to help solve this problem.

Nong Bua is a village in the sub-district of Phrao where Warm Heart Worldwide, Inc. - the sponsoring nonprofit for the Rutgers chapter of EWB-USA - works towards sustainable community development.

The implementation of our Thailand Project has been featured in the documentary film Thailand: Untapped, directed by Emmy-winning documentary editor Dena Seidel. The film was accepted into the 2012 New Jersey Film Festival.

The documentary was produced by the Rutgers Writers House, the Office of Undergraduate Education ,and  the Rutgers Engineering School, as well as the Rutgers deans: Busch campus Dean Thomas Papathomas, College Avenue campus Dean Matt Matsuda, and Cook campus Dean Rick Ludescher.



The Need

Nong Bua is predominantly a farming community with 143 households. The income per household is ~40,000 Baht (US$ 1,270) per year, with 68% of their income spent on purchasing sources of clean water. The government constructed a water filtration and distribution system for an 88m well. However, the persisting poor water quality has forced the community to purchase costly bottled water for drinking, or dig personal, shallow wells that do not provide clean water. It appears that positive modification of government built water purification system would have positive results.

EWB-USA Response

In the summers of 2008 and 2009, EWB-USA Rutgers members tested the water purification system for chemical and biological pollutants. The results of these tests showed high levels of iron and manganese as well as a fecal coliform contamination. The members worked especially close with Warm Heart, public hand local university students, to conduct a baseline health assessment of the community and discuss practical and cost effective solutions.

During the summer of 2009, the team installed backwashing capabilities and a maintenance schedule for the water system that effectively reduced the iron and manganese concentration to a clean level. The team implemented various changes to combat the remaining fecal coliform contamination. the entire system was shock- chlorinated, and a hypo-chlorinator was installed to deliver a constant chlorine injection to the water system.

Following Up

The EWB-USA Rutgers members plan to keep in close contact with the community through our communication with Warm Heart. The water committee has obtained coliform testing kits and an operations and maintenance manual for future upkeep of the system. The team will contact Warm Heart on a monthly basis and monitor the coliform contamination to treat future implications.

Moving Forward

Due to the immense undertakings by EWB-USA Rutgers in Guatemala and Kenya, currently there are no plans for future projects in Thailand. However, the EWB-USA Rutgers team is confident about the future of Nong Bua after the final implementation trip during which educational programs were conducted and multiple meetings were held with the communities and local government to ensure that the project will be sustainable. The community used to invest a large sum on their incomes in obtaining clean water, and now they will be rid of this burden.

Project Lead(s): Elizabeth Silagi, Jessica Kretch

Professional Mentor: Theresa Hart, P.E.

Thailand: Untapped

Thailand: Untapped follows three American engineering students, working under the auspices of the volunteer organization Engineers Without Borders, as they travel to a province in northern Thailand with the aim of bringing clean, potable water to the rural village of Nong Bua.

From the Rutgers Writers House, the Office of Undergraduate Education, the Rutgers Engineering School, Busch campus Dean Thomas Papathomas, College Avenue campus Dean Matt Matsuda, and Cook campus Dean Rick Ludescher.

Rutgers Writers House and EWB-USA Rutgers Promotional Video


Watch Thailand Untapped on PBS. See more from NJDocs.