Community Plumbing Challenge: Teams Get Started on Work in New Mexico

Community Plumbing Challenge: Teams Get Started on Work in New Mexico

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Editor’s Note: Randy Lorge is one of the coaches for the Community Plumbing Challenge team, which is currently in New Mexico doing projects for residents of the Navajo Indian Reservation. It’s the fourth year for the program that aims to bring together plumbers and engineers from around the world to help regions that still lack basic sanitation and access to clean drinking water. Lorge will be blogging regularly during the team’s time in New Mexico, detailing the work that they are doing.


This week team members from various parts the United States as well as Australia, South Africa, and Ireland began work on the first ever Community Plumbing Challenge held in New Mexico on the Navajo Indian Reservation. There are four teams that average in size from five to six plumbers and we have a few electricians who are jumping from job to job as needed.

The Assignments

Each team was assigned anywhere from one to three homes to work on. The homes vary in level of need. The neediest require a septic system, a water supply tank, all new drains and water supply systems, and various new fixtures.

My team, a group of five plumbers and an electrician, were assigned residence No. 10, a trailer home where a family of 10 lives. The husband, wife and eight children live with no running water, no septic system, and an electrical supply that is basically a couple of extension cords strung across the ground from one home to another. The only water they do have is delivered and stored in an outside container that holds about 50 to 75 gallons of water.

My team and I have been assigned one of the neediest projects. 

The Work Begins

When we first arrived on the site, we did a thorough evaluation of the project. The home had no toilets. There was no bathtub or shower and of course there was no running water or septic. The part that was hard to handle was that the holes that were roughed in for the drains where some of the plumbing fixtures once existed were left open to the outside. They were literally wide open to the outside where temps can vary from upward of 100 degrees F in the summer months to well below freezing during the winter.

After our assessment the team broke up into smaller groups. One group began removing the remains of the no longer useable drains from the mobile home and the other started removing the galvanized water piping.

A New Infrastructure

The new infrastructure started to come together very quickly. A 1,200-gallon plastic water tank was delivered and the location for a new septic tank and drainfield was determined.

The organizers of the project, DigDeep and the Community Plumbing Challenge among others, provided  a new water supply system, which included a buried 1,200-gallon tank, a 120v pump, a water filter, an electric water heater, and all new water distribution piping. Within an hour and a half, our excavator dug the hole for the tank and it was installed. Within three hours, a water truck arrived and 1,200 gallons of fresh water was delivered and the tank was filled.

By the end of the work day the team had a grip on what needed to be done for the remainder of the project. Material lists were drafted and supplies were ordered.

Life for this family was about to change forever, as was ours.



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