Energy Infrastructure and Mobility

Embracing Sustainable Water Infrastructure: My Experience Designing a Rainwater Collection System

04 of July of 2023

Water is a vital resource, which I have always had access to my entire life. Living in the United States for most of my life, I’ve always lived in areas with reliable water infrastructure. This is not the case in Kerela, India. Kerela receives some of the highest rainfall levels in all of India during its monsoon season and has some of the most severe water scarcity during its dry season. This issue of water scarcity is the basis of the social infrastructures project with the Fundación Esperanza y Alegria and Mundakayam Medical Trust (MMT) Hospital in Kanjirappally, India. 

The Need for Water Infrastructure 

I arrived in Kerela with the Ferrovial team and Fundación Esperanza y Alegria on February 13th. We drove to the Mundakayam Medical Trust Hospital, where we toured the Hospital and the site for the new facility, which was currently under construction. Throughout our time there, we learned of the struggles that the hospital has faced due to the lack of access to clean water. Often, the hospital does not have enough water to care for all its patients and cannot serve all who come. The hospital has no water filtration system, so all the water being used is not treated. This, no doubt, has affected the quality of care the hospital provides. Unfortunately, these issues are not uncommon in the region. The Mundakayam Medical Trust Hospital serves three regions within Kerela, these are Idukki, Kottayam, and Pathanamathitta. In total, the hospital serves more than 60,000 patients a year, not including patients who are seen free of charge. To provide care for these patients, there is a huge demand for clean water and need for improved and sustainable water infrastructure. 

Designing the Rainwater Collection System

We conducted multiple site visits to inspect the current hospital water collection system and met with engineering consultants to discuss plans for the future rainwater collection system design. Through the course of our trip, we learned that the primary concerns faced by the hospital pertain water storage, and water treatment.

The water storage issues that Mundakayam Medical Trust Hospital faces are not uncommon in the region. During the rainy months, there is more than enough water to go around, and even a surplus of water at the Hospital. However, once the dry season comes around, the communities struggle to retain the water that was collected during the rainy season. After looking at the current rainwater system of the hospital, we determined that the hospital storage tanks were not large enough. A much larger storage tank is needed, to provide the hospital with water during the dry season. In addition to the problem of water storage, the Mundakayam Medical Trust Hospital also faces issues with water treatment.

In addition to collecting rainwater, the hospital gathers water from wells. We learned that these wells collect water from the river and from the ground. There was no filtration system for any of the water sources at the time of our visit. Adding a filtration system is crucial to improving the quality of care at MMT hospital. Since the water is drawn from various sources with potential contaminants, it must be treated once the water is stored in the treated water tank for use. We worked closely with the current engineering consultants for the hospital, and the directors of the hospital, to understand the potential contamination issues and develop solutions for the water collection and filtration system. Our team created a presentation at the end of our trip, which we gave to the consultants and directors for the hospital. We outlined the current and potential water contamination issues with the collection system design and gave recommendations on pipe routing to avoid contamination. Our team also provided a recommendation for water tank design and sizing. We shared our results in a report with the consultants and directors of the hospital, Father Soji, and Father Dieepu.

Implementation and Community Engagement

Throughout the entirety of our project, the MMT community was incredibly welcoming. Our group engaged in many events with the community and participated in multiple welcoming ceremonies given to our team. The hospitality and kindness were beyond my expectations and improved the quality of work and motivation for our engineering team during the trip. 

Our team attended a ceremony put on by the MMT Nursing School, they performed traditional dances of the Kerela region and gave us welcoming gifts. I enjoyed experiencing the culture of Kerela and all the amazingly talented young nurses in training who performed for us. Over the course of our trip, we had many opportunities to interact with the community and attended ceremonies. The efforts of the community to involve and welcome our Ferrovial team helped to foster a productive and open relationship while working on this project.  

Impact and Benefits

The water collection and treatment system for the Mundakayam Medical Trust Hospital is just one small, but very crucial, part of the puzzle to creating a facility that will provide crucial medical services for the surrounding community. The new facility will also pose as an opportunity for the residents in the surrounding areas to create a career in the medical field. Not only does the hospital provide care, but it is part of the MMT Nursing School, which trains many women in the community to become nurses: and where many doctors from the region are employed.

The construction of the new hospital will lead to increased medical services and opportunities for medical training in the region. These are essential tools and resources that can empower those served by the hospital. The hospital’s access to a clean and reliable water source is a basic and essential step to improving the quality of life in Mundakayam. 

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