UTEP Students Help Provide Clean Drinking Water to Haiti Community

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) - Six undergraduate civil engineering students and their professor are making a difference overseas by helping to bring safe drinking water to hundreds of families in Haiti. 

The UTEP students partnered with two Borderland companies to develop a solar-powered water system that's going to benefit 500 people. Ivonne Santiago, clinical professor of civil engineering, says the project was made possible through an anonymous donor from Tennessee. 

"I feel blessed and humbled by this opportunity from this anonymous donor that we'll be able to change people's lives," said Santiago. 

Santiago is leading the group of seniors who've been designing the project since August.

"It's a transformational experience for students to be able to put into practice what they've learned in class for the benefit of this community that otherwise would not have access to people with technology knowledge to help them," Santiago adds. 

According to Santiago, there's no electricity in the community where the system will be installed, and the only source of water residents have is a nearby lake.

"The problem here is that the source of water is salty, it's brackish, so it's not safe for drinking. So with reverse osmosis, what we do is filter out all the salts."

Last week, the team tested its creation before shipping it to Haiti. In 6-8 weeks, Santiago and her students will go install the equipment in Haiti.

"Here at UTEP, we will be able to monitor the batteries and how the system is operating," said Santiago. 

Santiago tells NewsChannel 9 that the reason she pursued a career in civil engineering had to do with more than just her love for math. 

"Civil engineering is a people-serving profession, so this is a prime example of how we can use our knowledge and our skills for the benefit of our community. In this case, it's an international community."

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