Civil Engineering - Designing Community Water Systems (Honduras)

Ask us how you and your class can customize this offering to be done in person in one of our program countries.

Our bilingual on-the-ground civil engineers guide students and local Water Councils through the design of a community-wide water system in a rural and resource-limited Honduran community. Students engage in designing a community water system project. The program includes the details of the community selection process by an NGO, how to conduct a community needs assessment, geo-mapping for the design of the water system, and the use of engineering design software applications. Students will collaborate with members of the community water council and Honduran civil engineers in the planning, design, and development of a water system project.

Final deliverables include a detailed water system design by the students in collaboration with the community Water Council and a Honduran civil engineer, and a final project report presented to the community Water Council.

The Program aligns with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal #6 Clean Water and Sanitation.

This virtual Program enables students to collaborate with community members to achieve real impact, gain significant experience, and develop transferable skills and intercultural competencies, while limiting time away from school and their carbon travel footprint by using virtual meetings – all for the cost of a textbook or two.

Civil Engineering Program Learning Objectives

Students that successfully complete the Civil Engineering Program will be able to:

  • Discuss issues impacting the access to clean water and sanitation in rural communities in a developing country.
  • Analyze and assess the community’s water and sanitation needs that impact the community’s health and wellbeing.
  • Learn to resolve technical civil engineering challenges related to water system design and implementation in an international cultural context.
  • Use water design software applications to design a water system project, developed in collaboration with the community Water Council, and present it to the community.
  • Develop a budget and costs projections for the water system project.

Resources provided in support of the virtual sessions and Modules

  • A bilingual, on-the-ground session facilitator will coordinate each virtual session with students.
  • A local licensed civil engineer will provide on-the-ground field experience and cultural context.
  • A translator is provided in each virtual session in which students engage with the Community Water Council. Civil engineers and all staff are also bilingual.
  • Program materials including field-data, software tools and specialized engineering training are provided to all students.
  • Session scheduling that coordinates students and community members.


There are nine Modules in the Civil Engineering Program. Each Module is scheduled for two hours. The Modules can be variously assembled to build programs of the appropriate length and focus. Additional Modules can be developed to address specific campus needs.

Module 1: Introductions and Organization Overview; Community Context and Challenges to Clean Water (2 hours est.)

Our Facilitator provides an overview of the Honduran context, including details of its water systems, and Global Brigades (GB) as an NGO working with communities in Honduras through its Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH) program. Discussion on how WASH aligns with UN Sustainable Development Goal 6.

Introduction to the individual community will be our collaborative partner in this course, including a detailed community profile, details on the geographical region, and map coordinates. Facilitator discusses the community’s issues in accessing clean drinking water.

Module 1 – Self-paced activity

Students review the Rapids Needs Assessment (RNA) for their community and summarize pressing issues that face rural communities in the area based on the RNA.

Module 2: Community Assessment and Introduction; Water standards, norms, regulations; Technical Training: GPS Mapping (2 hours est.)

Detailed community overview of its location, where water is collected in the community, and living and housing conditions. Examine the community for existing wells, tanks, cisterns and home connections when present. Discuss water standards, norms, and regulations.

Water standards, norms, regulations – review of Honduran water quality standards, safety for human consumption, complete water analysis – when the water is safe and when it is not.

Facilitator demonstrates GPS Mapping software so that students will be able to use it as a resource for their project.

Module 2 – Self paced activity

Students watch testimonials from community members and draft questions for the Water Council meeting (Module 3).

Module 3: Meeting the Water Council (2 hours est.)

Facilitator leads a live discussion with the students and the community Water Council.

Module 3 – Self-paced activity

Students summarize the specific water and sanitation challenges and available resources for their community, based on the RNA and the community Water Council meeting.

Module 4: Technical Training: EPANET Design Software (2 hours est.)

Facilitator demonstrates EPANET software that models water distribution systems. Group reviews previous water system designs to become familiar with the EPANET software and the scope of deliverables that the students will create.

Module 4 – Self-paced Activity

Students input recently collected data from the community into the design software (EPANET). Student teams begin planning the water system design and budget.

Module 5: Working Session 1 with Honduran Civil Engineer: Project Design (2 hours est.)

Students work with a Honduran civil engineer who provides feedback and guidance on their water system project design. Facilitator explains and discusses monitoring and evaluation practices for this water project.

Module 5 – Self-paced activity

Based on the civil engineer’s feedback, students continue to collaborate on a water system design for their community and begin to plan their water system presentation for the community.

Module 6: Working Session 2 with Honduran Civil Engineer: Project Design and Budget Analysis (2 hours est.)

Students continue to work with a Honduran civil engineer who assists in the development of the water system budget, including a Rough Order of Magnitude (ROM) estimate and report. Findings to be summarized in a Spanish-language PowerPoint presentation to be presented to the community Water Committee.

Module 6 – Self-paced activity

Based on the civil engineer’s feedback, students edit designs and continue work on the final community presentation.

Module 7: Water System Design and Budget Presentation Rehearsal (2 hours est.)

Rehearse the Water System Design and Budget presentation for the community Water Council for feedback from the civil engineer and the facilitator.

Module 7 – Self-paced activity

Based on the feedback from the civil engineer and the facilitator, students continue to revise the Water System Design and Budget presentation for the community.

Module 8: Presentation to the Community Water Council (2 hours est.)

Water System Design and Budget presentation is delivered to the community Water Council for comment and feedback.

Module 8 – Self-paced activity

Students make revisions to the presentation, based on community Water Council feedback.

Module 9: Data Impact Reporting; Post-Project Follow Up and Reflections (2 hours est.)

Facilitator provides an overview of the project’s next steps toward construction and the cost recovery model for financing the project.

Facilitator guides a reflection with the group on the experience and the impact that the water system will have on this community.


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