Community Plumbing Challenge Comes to the United States

Households in the Navajo Nation in New Mexico will be the beneficiaries of this year’s project

Community Plumbing Challenge Comes to the United States

Randy Lorge, second from the left, with some of his fellow Community Plumbing Challenge team members during last year's project in Indonesia.

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Preparations for this year’s Community Plumbing Challenge will get started toward the end of the week. The program, spearheaded by the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials, brings together plumbers and engineers from around the world to work on projects in regions that still struggle with basic sanitation and safe drinking water access.

In the three years since the program’s inception, projects have been completed in India, South Africa, and Indonesia. This year, organizers of the challenge are changing it up — the project will be occurring in the United States, though the mission to focus on areas lacking modern water and wastewater infrastructure remains the same. Team members will be working on the Navajo Indian Reservation in New Mexico. One of the team’s coaches Randy Lorge blogged regularly for Plumber magazine during the duration of last year’s project in Indonesia, and he will be doing so again. Here is his first blog post for the 2018 edition of the Community Plumbing Challenge:

Nelson Mandela once said, “There can be no greater gift than that of giving one’s time and energy to help others without expecting anything in return.”

Fortunately, organizations such as the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) fully understand that quote. It’s shown through the Community Plumbing Challenge that the group helps spearhead, which services communities in great need of basic, fundamental requirements for safe plumbing systems.

From Oct. 22 to 26, the latest edition of the Community Plumbing Challenge (CPC) program will get underway. Having been involved in the previous editions of the program in India, South Africa and Indonesia, I will again be joining the team as an adviser and team leader. This year’s CPC team members will be working in the Navajo Nation of New Mexico, which is the largest land area home to a Native American tribe. It is an area larger than 10 of the 50 states in the U.S. Currently 40 percent of the Navajo Nation population (approximately 69,600 people) live without running water or a toilet.

Our CPC team will include a multi-disciplined group of skilled tradespeople — from around the U.S. as well as other areas of the world — to execute plumbing and construction projects that will improve living conditions in about 10 households that were nominated by the award-winning U.S.-based nonprofit organization DigDeep. Inside these homes, a range of bathroom and kitchen renovations will be carried out, including the installation of new wash basins, faucets, toilets, water storage tanks, water pumps, and water distribution piping. These renovations and repairs are required in order for these homes to be connected to water supply systems. Meanwhile, our efforts outdoors will address the installation of, and connection to, new wastewater systems.

Having experienced the CPC projects in India, South Africa, and Indonesia, I expect the upcoming work in New Mexico to be just as incredibly challenging. In order to accomplish our goal of improving the living conditions of these homes, we’ll have to deal with harsh soil conditions, which should make excavating an adventure. Also, ensuring the team has the right tools and materials for the job in a very remote part of New Mexico should prove to be a task in and of itself. Fortunately, as in past years, we’ve assembled an awesome team of volunteers that will be working together for the betterment of others. I have no doubt that this could be one of the best CPC projects yet.

To make the “gift” we’re giving even better, our team will also be working to create innovative strategies, partnerships, and programs that will result in direct real-world impact and potentially the upskilling of workers on the reservation. Residents and vocational students will be involved in the work and the project will showcase how plumbing practices, products, specialized tools and expertise can be applied to positively impact public health in their community.

In addition, this year’s CPC will feature a Water and Sanitation Crisis in America roundtable on the first morning of the project. The theme of the roundtable is: Government and industry working together for solutions. The discussion will include leaders from the Navajo Nation, policymakers from local, state and federal levels, and industry thought leaders. In addition to focusing on issues concerning tribal lands, the roundtable will look at issues facing the more than 1.6 million people across the U.S. without access to clean water and safe sanitation. The goal of the roundtable is to raise awareness of the magnitude of the water crisis we face in America and help communities find solutions to these challenges.

I’m looking forward to working closer to home with the latest CPC team. Please watch for my blogs here at PlumberMag.com where I’ll keep you updated with our progress and the impact our work is making on people’s lives across the Navajo Nation reservation.



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