In many ways, the Salinas River Valley in California is a paradise.
The land of Steinbeck, it’s flat and fertile and filled with farms. Broccoli, spinach, strawberries, you name it – there’s a good chance it came from Monterey County, CA.
But for many people in the small, rural Salinas River Valley communities, a lack of clean drinking water has made life anything but a paradise.
“Every community requires its own special solution,” said Peter Waugh, P.E., M.ASCE, community programs director at Engineers Without Borders USA. “Most of them are suffering from a problem that is not of their own making.”
CECorps started in 2014, an alliance between ASCE, the American Water Works Association, and Engineers Without Borders USA, to connect volunteer expert engineers around the country with infrastructure projects helping underserved communities.
CECorps now is forming project teams to help eight different underserved communities in the Salinas River Valley.
“We’re looking for volunteers who want to use their expertise to help folks who would otherwise have a water system that has unhealthy water for them,” Waugh said. “We can be the catalysts to help this community.”
“What we are really trying to understand by working with these impacted communities is not only the infrastructure solution but also the human capital piece,” said Vicente Lara, central coast program coordinator for EJCW. “The CECorps is providing the technical infrastructure perspective, which is a key component to developing long-term solutions. And then we’re interested in looking at the human side to the solution. A lot of these communities ultimately will need to manage and run these long-term solutions.
“So it seems like a perfect match, because there are these two elements that are getting addressed at the same time.”
The project goal is to develop a plan to provide each of the communities with a safe, clean, and affordable water supply. That is likely to mean eight different plans. One community, for instance, has a small treatment system for 10 homes, but it’s difficult to maintain. Another community is larger – closer to 150 homes – but the water system serves only five of the homes. Some may need assistance with identifying and evaluating sanitation problems as well.
“Each community is like an onion. You have to peel off the first layer and then keep peeling,” Lara said.
ASCE Sections, Branches, Institute chapters, and Student Chapters in partnership with a Section or Branch can form project teams to adopt these and other CECorps projects.