Malawi Water Project

The local Malawian villagers, fetching water (note that it's
often predominantly the women and children who are tasked
with fetching water in African culture).
In March, EMI sent a team of Civil Engineers to the mountainous rural areas of Malawi to assist World Vision with a problem they were having with an enormous water pipeline project they have been trying to implement. They had started the project in 2005 with the hopes of diverting a natural spring up in the mountains to several communities in the hills below, miles away. In all, the system was hopeful of providing a stable water source for up to 40,000 people across many different villages and communities in the region.

To date, they had installed about the first 33km (20 miles) of the pipeline, which would serve about 4,000 people. However, for some reason, the pipeline has been fraught with problems from the outset with no reliability in the system. In fact, the main trunk line had been installed twice and still wasn't working much of the time. The EMI team was called in to help solve the problems with this first section - a daunting task to pinpoint a problem in a 33km section of pipe!
Simple things like installing improper supports for the
pipe can compromise even the best designed system .
Whether installing the pipeline or performing repairs,
all materials must be carried into the jungle -
often several miles away from the supply store.
Even the generator to power the welding machine has to
be carried in.
Showing up on the site, it was a bit intimidating to think about how to attack the problem. But, a funny thing happened - a failure happened as the team was watching the main trunk line fill the first water tank (near the initial source point for the 4,000. As they watched, the water coming out of the pipe slowed to a trickle before stopping altogether - something had happened. As they went up the pipeline, word reached them that a burst in the line had occurred several miles upstream. Arriving at the site of the burst, it was clear that the problem was too high of pressure in the line - the burst was located at a section where the pipe had just leveled off from a steep incline.

It was a miraculous failure really, as it pin-pointed the problem for the team early on and allowed them to focus on potential solutions. It was decided that a pressure-reducing holding tank was needed to take the pressure out of the main line at the bottom of the incline - pressures that were calculated to be as high as 400psi (by comparison, a 4" PVC pipe would normally be able to withstand up to 110psi).
The burst pipe.
Another leak in the pipe.
Back in the office, I was able to help the team with the design of the tank, and given the urgency of getting the water flowing again, the report has already been finished and sent off to World Vision!

I love EMI projects like this, where the distance between our work and the felt need is very small. And, in working with a 'big fish' like World Vision, it's exciting to see word of EMI begin to reach some of the major players in world missions. After this trip, World Vision has already contacted us about helping them with two more WASH (Water and Sanitation Hygiene) projects!

You can be praying for EMI in these endeavors - as World Vision's Malawi country director Robert Kisyula put it, "I know the enemy is against you being here, because there is nothing that helps bring people out of poverty like access to clean water."
The clean water source in one village, fed by the pipeline.


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