EWB-UW Guatemala Project Blog: Visit our blog to stay up to date


May 2013
Project Managers:
Rebecca Alcock     Ben Sonnentag
Past Project Managers:
Ben Vandomelon     Mike Meyer
Patrick Zastrow     Calvin Schubbe
Patrick Dowd


The Guatemala program works within the municipalities of Joyabaj and San Martin, which are located in a mountainous region in western Guatemala, approximately 55 miles northwest of Guatemala City. Our partner communities with finished water distribution systems are Pajuya and Azucenas – these student designed systems serve more than 1,000 people. Our in progress projects are a Pedestrian Bridge across the Rio Pasaguay in the community of Rio Lindo, and a potentially record – setting water distribution system for the community of Zapote.

Archived Updates: See our blog for the most recent updates

February 2017 Update
Guatemala project is currently working hard on the final design submittal for Rio Lindo, which will allow a community of approximately 300 persons year-round access over a river that seasonally floods. This will give the community access to health posts, school, and markets. The team is also designing the components of the water system for Zapote. The project will require approximately 18 kilometers of piping, two tanks, six suspended crossings, and three break pressure tanks. We will be implementing this project in the Winter of 2018. There is always a lot to do, so stop on by!

October 2016 Update

After experiencing several years of successful design, travel, and implementation, Guatemala project became the only UW-Madison program begin to working on two projects concurrently; the Rio Lindo Pedestrian Bridge and the Zapote Water system. The Rio Lindo Pedestrian Bridge will span 35 meters across the Rio Pasaguay in the summer of 2017, and design is set to be finalized by the student team around Christmas 2016. Current work includes designing foundations and bridge decking. The Zapote Water system is in the assessment stages, and the student team is currently examining how to make the system feasible. Over 12km of piping is anticipated to complete the system, and a maximum vertical exceeding of 700m will need to be navigated. An assessment trip is expected to be taken this January of 2017, and system construction is set for 2018.

A recent assessment trip also showed widespread success of the Azucenas water system, built from August 2015 – January 2016. The community has had constant access to clean water, and instances of water storage and water-borne illness have decreased. A lasting partnership with the community has been forged, and the overall lessons learned and design concepts of Azucenas will serve as an excellent platform for the Zapote project.

February 2016 Update
After a long saga of financial troubles, communication problems, and delayed construction, the construction of the Azucenas project is complete! The springs were allowed to flow into the conduction line, and the 20,000L tank was filled in less than four hours – an even faster rate than originally planned for. One small leak was repaired where a glued joint failed; no problems have been detected since. Azucenas plans to inaugurate the system on Feburary 29th, where a student team from MSOE will attend in our place.

EWB-UW Guatemala project has also started a new project – the Rio Lindo Pedestrian Bridge! The Rio Lindo bridge project seeks to connect the community of Rio Lindo to neighboring villages (Tzitzil, Pasaguay and Quiacoj) by erecting a pedestrian bridge across the Rio Lindo river. The community is currently cut off from these nearby communities during the rainy season, as the Rio Lindo river becomes swollen and impassible. This forces the residents of Rio Lindo to walk far upstream on the Rio Lindo river, creating a one-way 3 hour trip to the nearest primary and secondary schools, markets, and medical facilities. An assessment trip is planned for summer 2016, with implementation in January 2017.

August 2015 Update
In late July and early August, a team of eight UW-Madison students and two professional mentors traveled to Guatemala to implement the Azucenas water system. While the students were in country, over 9 km of pipe was installed, and most critical infrastructure for teh project was erected; including the 20,000L tank, all 3 springboxes, and a 10m suspended crossing for the pipeline. More than 100 community members helped build the system every day, and the community’s children hardly left the travel team’s side. The team spent a great deal of time sorting out pressure head issues due to slight changes in the route necessitated by roads and boulders. EWB-UW Guatemala’s first project, Pajuya, was also visited. They are experiencing high pressure throughout a leg of that system, often causing pipe breaks. A break pressure tank may be installed if PRV’s are determined to be inadequate. Post-travel documents and the 526 report are now being prepared.

February 2015 Update
The EWB-UW Guatemala program sent of team of 3 mentors and 4 students to Guatemala from January 4 – January 11 for continued monitoring and assessment of our Pajuya and Azucenas water projects. In Pajuya, the travel team completed additional water testing and provided assistance with maintenance of pressure reducing valves and system monitoring. In Azuenas, the travel team collected additional water testing data, examined proposed locations of suspended crossings, collected right of way documents, and met with community leadership to discuss water system management. Currently, we are in the preliminary design phase of the project. Initial designs for the spring boxes, conduction line, suspended crossings, and 20,000 L distribution tank are underway and will be submitted to EWB-USA with the 524 – Preliminary Design Report on March 16, 2015. We will be working the remainder of the semester to achieve our ultimate goal of implementing the major elements of the system in July 2015.

November 2014 Update
The Guatemala Chapter is rounding out the semester in a great position to do great things moving forward. We have submitted our 521 Pre-Assessment document to EWB-USA and are awaiting approval before we purchase our tickets to travel in January. Our travel team is comprised of three mentors and four students. On this assessment trip, objectives include: continued monitoring of our Pajuya water project, obtain signed “Memorandum of Understanding” from Azucenas community, perform water quality testing at proposed Azucenas springs, and complete data collection and surveying to allow for the design of the system in the spring semester. We also received grants from the Pieper Student Leadership fund and from the Antea Group through EWB-USA totaling $7,000! The rest of our semester will be centered around preparing the travel team for a successful assessment trip in January.

October 2014 Update
The Guatemala Chapter garnered a wonderful amount of student interest at the EWB Kickoff meeting and we saw our group size swell to over 35 members! We received positive feedback regarding our 522 Post Assessment document from EWB-USA and permission to move forward with preparations for our second assessment trip to the village of Azucenas in January 2015. Currently, we are preparing for our January 2015 assessment trip by constructing a community MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) and tap owner agreement, compiling an educational health and sanitation program for the community, and performing and engineering alternatives analysis proposed distribution tank options. Moving forward, we will be preparing our 521 Pre-Assessment document and choosing our travel team for our upcoming trip in January!

September 2014 Update
The EWB-Guatemala team traveled to Guatemala on July 26th for an eight day trip which functioned as both a post-implementation visit to Pajuya and a pre-implementation trip for a potential new project in the community of Azucenas. Although there were a few minor issues with Pajuya’s new system, including excessive pressure at certain points in the line, all problems are in the process of being remedied. Despite these issues, the system is functioning well by providing the beneficiaries from the system with clean, potable water.

The next project on which the EWB-Guatemala group will be working is to consturct a similar gravity-powered water distribution system for the community of Azucenas in Joyabaj. In preparation, we assessed the feasibility of implementing a system to serve the 90 families of the Azucenas community by visiting the potential springs, interviewing each potential beneficiary on the line, and speaking with the community leadership. EWB-Guatemala plans to return to the communities in January to ensure Pajuya’s water system is functioning properly as well as to finalize agreements with the community of Azucenas.

July 2014 Update
The next project the EWB-Guatemala group will be working on is to create a plan to construct a similar water distribution system to the community of Azucenas in Joyabaj. Our team recently submitted the 521 pre-assessment report in preparation for our assessment trip scheduled this summer in late July. During this trip, we plan to assess the feasibility of implementing a system to serve the 90 families of the Azucenas community. We also plan to work with the school in Pajuya to host a health and sanitation workshop in order to teach the children of the community important facts concerning personal health. Our final task will be to visit each component of the system to ensure it is in perfect working order so that the people of Pajuya can enjoy fresh, clean water for many years.