Creating a water pipeline for a healthier future

By Conor Byrnes
May 29, 2018

Upon arriving to his village in northern Senegal, Peace Corps Volunteer Conor was struck by two things: the people, kind and resilient, and the heat, dry and persistent.

One of the volunteer’s first friends in the village explained to him that their greatest challenge was access to water: water for cooking, water for washing, water for drinking, water for cleaning, water for gardening, etc. This village is fortunate to be near to a tributary of the Senegal River, but the water is not potable and too far from the village to provide for their various needs. The village had come to rely upon a series of wells scattered around the area. While these wells provided a consistent source of water, they were particularly susceptible to contamination. And pulling water is physically exhausting.

Thus, having established a need, the Volunteer sought ideas for combatting this lack of clean water. It quickly became apparent that the health post needed a water source, as most babies in the village are born there. Conor and his work partners sought to provide individual faucets in homes as well. The difficulty for this team was creating a project that was publically oriented, while it still offered benefit to private compounds. After some public meetings and private discussions, the volunteer’s team decided to place two shared faucets at both village mosques, and another at the health structure. Thus the idea for the water pipeline project was born. 

Conor water lines.jpg
Local workers digging the pipeline

Conor gravitated to the idea initially because it was tangible, transformative, and met the interests of the community. But upon further investigation, it also was a trove of opportunity for work within the Peace Corps Senegal framework. With running water, at-home hand washing stations could be established, homes and community gardens could hope for enlivened futures, which in turn created a platform for teaching small business management and personal finance. 

After Water Charity funds arrived, the work began. The climate of January reprieved the usual heat, allowing more than 700 meters of trench to be dug by an enthusiastic and light-hearted team of villagers. Conor’s work partner, Boco Gueye, organized and led the project. A plumbing professional, Alu Sow, adroitly managed installation of pipelines and faucet construction. All that was left was for the Volunteer to manage materials, finances, and the relationship with the overseer of the water source. Within a month the scars in the earth were effaced and water began to flow steadily from the faucets. 

Today, 18 faucets, three public and 15 private, are supplied by this central pipeline. Currently, plans are being finalized for an east-west expansion of the pipeline, to service more homes, and ultimately reach a large women’s garden on the easterly end of the village. The goal for the project’s second phase it to provide two-thirds of the village with clean water.