Ilha Das Pecas, Brazil


Brazil has the largest population and land area in South America, and is the contintent's only non-Spanish speaking nation. Although the country has a high exchange rate and famous touristic cities, such as Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, this does not accurately represent the conditions of the entire country. Over 30 percent of the population live below the poverty line and are not given equal access to water and sanitation facilities.

Many communities do not have access to potable water. The Brazilian islands especially suffer droughts during the dry seasons, which leads residents to find and use brackish, contaminated sources of water. As is expected, this causes a prevalence of gastrointestinal diseases.

The Need

Ilha das Peças is an island located in the South-East coast of Brazil in the state of Parana. The island itself is fairly large; however, most of the land is a protected national park, confining the community to a small plot of land close to the coast.

EWB-UMCP's program in Brazil began in 2006 with the partnership of two neighboring universities in the cities of Curitiba and Pontal. These initial projects began with the construction of a reservoir and the installation of a chlorination system in 2006. Then, micro constructed wetland systems were installed to service the community in 2007.

There are approximately 250 residents living on the island, many of which are fishermen. Most of the children attend a local school, which holds about 110 students ranging from grades K-12. The recently implemented EWB-UMCP project worked on a water purification system to meet the water demand of the local school.

The local school's main problem stemmed from an inadequate water supply. Potable water must be piped in from the mainland from a source over 20 km away. A problem arose because this source has a very low output in the dry season. In addition, nearby crabbers damage the pipeline which decreases the output year round. As a result of the shortage, the school did not receive enough water, especially during the dry season. The water provided to the school by the municipality was used as both potable and non-potable water. Ensuring that the school has a constant supply of both potable and non-potable water does not only provide a more livable and sanitary environment at the school, but it also guarantees that the previously constructed wetlands can operate properly.

The EWB-UMCP Response

During an assessment trip in August 2010 a team consisting of two undergraduate students, a logistics mentor, a professional mentor, and a faculty advisor focused its efforts on gathering samples and performing tests from water around the school. Several meetings with the teachers at the school occurred to ensure their collaboration and understanding of the project. A general meeting with the community was also organized to communicate EWB-UMCP's intentions for the potable water project at the school and to hear the input from the community as well. Meetings with the local government leaders were also organized where the needs of the community were discussed and the potable water project for the school at the island was proposed.

The design phase took place during the Fall semester of 2010 and the Spring semester of 2011. The team designed a rain water catchment system which included a cartridge filter system for pre-filtration and an ultraviolet disinfection system as the final purification step. The rain collected was directed to an existing large tank and mixed with the municipal water, which later was directed to the filtration system. In addition, a shallow well was designed to meet the non-potable water demands at the local school. A physical separation of the potable and non-potable piping was also designed.

In August of 2011, a team consisting of one faculty mentor, one professional mentor and 6 undergraduate students traveled to the island to implement the designed project. The entire system was successfully implemented. The local school at Ilha das Peças now has a constant supply of both potable water and non-potable water. 

In March of 2014, EWB-UMCP traveled on a final monitoring/evaluation trip to Ilha das Pecas, Brazil. On this trip we collaborated with in-country contacts from local universities to examine the previously implemented projects. Additionally, we were able to work with the community to develop and plan sustainable solutions for problems they have encountered since the last projects were implemented.

From this trip we gained valuable insight into how the projects have fared, how they were embraced by the community, why they were successful, and, in some instances, why they were unsuccessful. We can now apply this information to current and future projects in other countries to ensure their continued success.