Date of Award


Document Type

Master's report

Degree Name

Master of Science in Environmental Engineering (MS)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering


Brian Barkdoll


More than eighteen percent of the world’s population lives without reliable access to clean water, forced to walk long distances to get small amounts of contaminated surface water. Carrying heavy loads of water long distances and ingesting contaminated water can lead to long-term health problems and even death. These problems affect the most vulnerable populations, women, children, and the elderly, more than anyone else. Water access is one of the most pressing issues in development today.

Boajibu, a small village in Sierra Leone, where the author served in Peace Corps for two years, lacks access to clean water. Construction of a water distribution system was halted when a civil war broke out in 1992 and has not been continued since. The community currently relies on hand-dug and borehole wells that can become dirty during the dry season, which forces people to drink contaminated water or to travel a far distance to collect clean water. This report is intended to provide a design the system as it was meant to be built.

The water system design was completed based on the taps present, interviews with local community leaders, local surveying, and points taken with a GPS. The design is a gravity-fed branched water system, supplied by a natural spring on a hill adjacent to Boajibu.

The system’s source is a natural spring on a hill above Boajibu, but the flow rate of the spring is unknown. There has to be enough flow from the spring over a 24-hour period to meet the demands of the users on a daily basis, or what is called providing continuous flow. If the spring has less than this amount of flow, the system must provide intermittent flow, flow that is restricted to a few hours a day. A minimum flow rate of 2.1 liters per second was found to be necessary to provide continuous flow to the users of Boajibu. If this flow is not met, intermittent flow can be provided to the users.

In order to aid the construction of a distribution system in the absence of someone with formal engineering training, a table was created detailing water storage tank sizing based on possible source flow rates. A builder can interpolate using the source flow rate found to get the tank size from the table. However, any flow rate below 2.1 liters per second cannot be used in the table. In this case, the builder should size the tank such that it can take in the water that will be supplied overnight, as all the water will be drained during the day because the users will demand more than the spring can supply through the night.

In the developing world, there is often a problem collecting enough money to fund large infrastructure projects, such as a water distribution system. Often there is only enough money to add only one or two loops to a water distribution system. It is helpful to know where these one or two loops can be most effectively placed in the system. Various possible loops were designated for the Boajibu water distribution system and the Adaptive Greedy Heuristic Loop Addition Selection Algorithm (AGHLASA) was used to rank the effectiveness of the possible loops to construct. Loop 1 which was furthest upstream was selected because it benefitted the most people for the least cost. While loops which were further downstream were found to be less effective because they would benefit fewer people. Further studies should be conducted on the water use habits of the people of Boajibu to more accurately predict the demands that will be placed on the system. Further population surveying should also be conducted to predict population change over time so that the appropriate capacity can be built into the system to accommodate future growth. The flow at the spring should be measured using a V-notch weir and the system adjusted accordingly.

Future studies can be completed adjusting the loop ranking method so that two users who may be using the water system for different lengths of time are not counted the same and vulnerable users are weighted more heavily than more robust users.