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AFT Contributes to Engineering Clean Water Systems in Africa

Colorado Springs, Colo., USA, April 12, 2020 - Engineers Without Borders (EWB) is an organization Applied Flow Technology (AFT) is happy to support. It is easy to partner with an organization that will devote years of time and resources to help develop and lift underdeveloped communities around the world.

AFT was contacted by the Alaska Professional Chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB-APC) who provides support (engineering, financial, construction, and operational) for potable water infrastructure projects to partners in the Mangochi region of Malawi, Africa. One of EWB-APC’s newer partners, the Koche Water Users Association (KWUA), is a cooperative that provides potable water treatment and distribution to area villages using water from Lake Malawi.

The KWUA is working on a project to retrofit suction lift pumps on the shore of the lake to augment their existing submersible pumps, which are at risk due to steadily declining lake levels. The project is currently in the design phase.

EWB-APC’s engineering support for the project included creating a mechanical/piping and instrumentation diagram (P&ID) of their existing system, documenting existing mechanical equipment/piping/layout, conducting mechanical/piping calculations, and developing hydraulic models of the water production and distribution system to validate measurements and predict the effects of future changes.

Engineers Without Borders Engineers Without Borders Alaska Engineers Without Borders

This project was larger and more complex than most others in EWB-APC, so the donation of dependable software that could handle a large system was vital. AFT was more than happy to donate AFT Fathom and AFT Impulse for the effort. Testing variations for a billion-dollar facility with hand-calculations or a spreadsheet is one level of financial risk. Relying on a spreadsheet when that financial safety net shrinks to the size of a napkin and the consequences of a mistake are putting poverty-stricken villages without clean drinking water, you tend to think twice about your analysis tools.

EWB-APC Project Engineer, Mike Moora, used AFT Fathom to simulate the current pump and treatment system, to debottleneck problems associated with excessive pressure losses.

Moora said, “We intend to use Fathom to develop system characteristic curves for the new system with the retrofitted pumps, and a different piping configuration. We are also investigating bottlenecks in KWUA's gravity fed distribution system, where AFT Fathom simulations will be extremely useful. As you might imagine, a gravity driven distribution system has its limitations.”

The KWUA project is actually a compliment to another project that began in 2008 with a water treatment and distribution system for a combined secondary school, health clinic, and AIDS orphanage called Malawi Children's Village (MCV); a non-profit organization who enhances the lives of more than 2,000 orphans who live within the 39 villages along the southwest shore of Lake Malawi.

In addition to poverty and disease, the Village was plagued with poor access to drinking water. Malawi’s underdeveloped infrastructure makes it difficult to supply clean drinking water and, in the past, MCV relied on untreated lake water which is also used by locals for bathing, and laundry.

The EWB-APC stepped in to help assist with water treatment. The project took four years to bring to fruition and included the design of a pumping station near the lake shore, using suction lift pumps to move water through a 2,700-foot line to the treatment building, and then filtering and treating the water. After being treated, the water is stored in a tank 15 feet off the ground, constructed on site of course, and then distributed to the school and orphanage.

While the initial goals for the MCV project were achieved in 2012, Mike Moora, says, “From time to time we continue to examine the operation of the feed pumps, in terms of optimizing operation, and have a need to generate the flow vs. head relationship as the configuration of the system changes. AFT Fathom is a useful tool for this exercise.”

Engineers Without Borders Malawi Children's Village Malawi Children's Village Water

EWB-APC continues to work in the Mangochi district with other local partners to improve surrounding areas access to clean drinking water.

If you know of an organization who could use flow analysis software to further their cause, AFT is always happy to help.

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