Thursday, January 16, 2014

Developing water solutions for Mtera Secondary School

Today we worked with the Mtera Secondary School today on their challenge of having a clean water source that is being contaminated by an insufficient storage system. Currently, this water system is in ruins, and is not serving the needs of the school. We tested the water quality and examined their well and pump system. Our next step is to look at the design alternatives and decide on a cost-effective, high-impact solution.

Mtera Secondary School, is a private educational institution which educates and houses young men and women between the ages of 13 and 19. In Tanzania, every child is required to attend primary school, however secondary school is not a guarantee and a tuition fee is required. The school is faced with the challenge of having a clean water source that is being contaminated by an insufficient storage system.

Within our Tanzania travel group, Team Mtera consists of our fearless leader Adam Pagel, mechanical engineers Brenda, Phil and Tyler and our lone chemical engineer Hardisha. In addition to our University of Minnesota members, we were joined by Saint Paul Partner's Operations Manager trainee, Hanael Gadwe, and University of Iringa Community Development student, Upendo Mandala.


Mtera Secondary School is located on the site of an abandoned Tanzanian Army base camp. The base camp was erected in the 1980's, when the Tanzanian government was in the process of constructing the nearby Mtera Hydroelectric Dam. The government designed and implemented a water system which met the water requirements for the base camp. Currently, this water system is in ruins, and is not serving the needs of Mtera Secondary School. Water for the system is supplied by a well and an electric submersible pump, which receives electricity from the hydroelectric dam that provides power to 50 percent of Tanzania.


The students assembled to meet us and sang their school song for us. Hardisha shared some of our culture by performing a simple tap dance for them. She then taught four brave volunteers how to dance.


Without getting into too much technical detail, the water system simply consists of a well which first feeds a spigot then travels much farther and higher to a concrete cistern storage tank. Most of the water being used in the school - laundry, cooking, drinking, and baths - comes from this spigot. We tested the water quality from the spigot.


Godlove, the school head of maintenance, and Musa, a school alumni and now new teacher, showed us the well and pump system.


As Godlove and Musa showed us their pipe system from the well leading up to the cistern, Tyler took GPS measurements of elevations and distances.


The cistern used to store water is open at the top, which has resulted in contamination. According to the staff, monkeys have been known to get into the cistern and swim. They have tried to prevent this by adding a roof and surrounding this with a mesh screen. However there are many holes, animals break it open, and small bugs still easily enter.


Since we were in town on Sunday, we took the opportunity to absorb local culture and attended a church service. There was a lot of great music, and at the end everyone marched out to the beat and shook hands. The community is very close and welcomed us with open arms.


Our next step as a team is to look at the design alternatives and decide on a cost-effective, high-impact solution to pitch to the non-profit organization Saint Paul Partners. We had a great time getting to know Upendo and Hanael, thanks ladies for all your help!


  1. I hope you would bring more knowledge base to this kids! Show them this blog already.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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