Water purification in rural South Africa: ethical analysis and reflections on collaborative community engagement projects in engineering

Harshfield, Eric, Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Virginia
Swap, Robert J., Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia

This paper presents a sustainable development project in which University of Virginia students collaborated with University of Venda faculty, Global Sustainability Club students, and local community members to address water problems in a village in the Venda region of the Limpopo Province, South Africa. The cohort's goal was to implement a sustainable and contextually appropriate water purification and distribution system. The authors present the design and constructed process for a slow sand filtration system intended to provide clean drinking water to most households in the community. They present and analyze the successes, failures, and ethical dilemmas encountered throughout project execution. Also, the authors assess the project based on three evaluation criteria for service learning projects and explore possibilities for follow-up through the collaboration between the University of Virginia, and the University of Venda. The paper ends with a reflection examining aspects of engineering community engagement projects including site assessments prior to project implementation, project timeframes, and cross-cultural institutional collaborations.

Note: Abstract extracted from PDF file via OCR.

BS (Bachelor of Science)

Includes Service-Learning at SEAS: Analysis of Existing Opportunities and Recommendations for Improvement. A Research Paper in STS 402.

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