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


John S. Gierke


As continued global funding and coordination are allocated toward the improvement of access to safe sources of drinking water, alternative solutions may be necessary to expand implementation to remote communities.

This report evaluates two technologies used in a small water distribution system in a mountainous region of Panama; solar powered pumping and flow-reducing discs. The two parts of the system function independently, but were both chosen for their ability to mitigate unique issues in the community. The design program NeatWork and flow-reducing discs were evaluated because they are tools taught to Peace Corps Volunteers in Panama.

Even when ample water is available, mountainous terrains affect the pressure available throughout a water distribution system. Since the static head in the system only varies with the height of water in the tank, frictional losses from pipes and fittings must be exploited to balance out the inequalities caused by the uneven terrain. Reducing the maximum allowable flow to connections through the installation of flow-reducing discs can help to retain enough residual pressure in the main distribution lines to provide reliable service to all connections.

NeatWork was calibrated to measured flow rates by changing the orifice coefficient (θ), resulting in a value of 0.68, which is 10-15% higher than typical values for manufactured flow-reducing discs. NeatWork was used to model various system configurations to determine if a single-sized flow-reducing disc could provide equitable flow rates throughout an entire system. There is a strong correlation between the optimum single-sized flow- reducing disc and the average elevation change throughout a water distribution system; the larger the elevation change across the system, the smaller the recommended uniform orifice size.

Renewable energy can jump the infrastructure gap and provide basic services at a fraction of the cost and time required to install transmission lines. Methods for the assessment of solar powered pumping systems as a means for rural water supply are presented and assessed. It was determined that manufacturer provided product specifications can be used to appropriately design a solar pumping system, but care must be taken to ensure that sufficient water can be provided to the system despite variations in solar intensity.