HDR Foundation Grant: Engineers Without Borders

Engineers Without Borders

HDR employees to clean up water, build houses in India

The main source of drinking water for the people of Nasarpuram, India, is contaminated by fluoride. The groundwater contains approximately 10 times more fluoride than the United States' standard for safety. Nearby, the ST Colony of CPPP is made up of mud houses with no bathroom facilities or clean drinking water.

A large grant from the HDR Foundation to the San Diego Professional Chapter of Engineers Without Borders will help change that.

The HDR Foundation will finance projects in the Marripudi region of India that will bring clean drinking water to Nasarpuram and add concrete infrastructures with latrines to the ST Colony of CPPP. HDR employees will voluntarily lead those projects.

Eric Scherch, assistant project manager in HDR's San Diego office, has helped garner support from his coworkers for the project in India. He is the employee sponsor of the application for the large grant, which is classified as more than $15,000, and has been involved with Engineers Without Borders for more than eight years. He joined the nonprofit to support a water-supply project in southeast India after a 2004 Tsunami wreaked havoc in the area. Since then, he has moved from a support role to a project management position. He currently serves as a project adviser.

"Engineers Without Borders is an organization that every engineer and engineering company should support," Scherch said. "The organization inspires young engineers, myself included, to make a difference in developing communities and teaches them to become better engineers and leaders in the process."

When the volunteers from HDR travel to India, they will be installing a reverse osmosis or ion exchange water-treatment system in Nasarpuram, a community of about 500 people. The project will reduce the levels of fluoride in the groundwater, which will reduce the cases of skeletal fluorosis, a disease that causes intense joint pains, organ failure, brittle bones and significantly shorter lifespans. Because the crops and livestock also rely on this water supply, the positive effects will extend beyond drinking water.

In the ST Colony of CPPP, 35 concrete houses will be built to support its 250 residents, each home complete with its own latrine. The team will utilize the roof for more living space while also adding a rainwater catchment system to develop a potable water source.

The team is looking to do much more than just fulfill the project and leave. The volunteers will work closely with the locals to educate them on the system and make sure they can handle the support and maintenance going forward. The residents of the Marripudi region will also be educated about the importance of clean drinking water and the health risks associated with their current systems.

Both projects are set to begin in February, with completion scheduled for October 2016. Engineers Without Borders will return to the area in February 2017 to follow-up with the locals and continue the education process. Currently, planning is in the final stages.

"I am thrilled with the team's progress and feel lucky to still be a part of their work," Scherch said. "They have my full support as well as my commitment to help in any way I can to make their projects a success." 

About the HDR Foundation

The HDR Foundation was founded in 2012 and has provided more than half a million dollars in grants to local organizations—fueled by donations from HDR employees. The foundation provides grants to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, federally recognized tribal governments, and to political subdivisions, such as school districts or libraries. Our giving is targeted to the communities in which our employees live and work, focusing on the U.S. or organizations that support global initiatives. Grant recipients are also required to align with HDR's areas of focus, which include education, healthcare and healthy communities, and healthy environments.