GEI’s May Sharif Helps Resource-Limited CommunitiesMarch 22, 2019
GEI’s Maysoon (May) Sharif founded AguaClara Reach (ACR) in 2012 after working on a student-based research program at Cornell University that focused on the development of resilient, gravity-powered drinking water and wastewater treatment technologies in resource-limited communities. Nearly 2 billion people across the world do not have access to clean water, causing it to be one of the most critical and deadly issues facing developing countries today.
ACR was founded in part by May’s passion for developing a solution to help break the many detrimental effects of poor water quality, including poverty, lack of education and upward mobility. When she was young, she recalls the unexpected inconveniences she would face when she would visit her family in Bangladesh due to lack of safe water on tap. Hours were spent boiling water, and she had to learn new habits such as taking care to keep her mouth closed during a shower. These experiences cultivated May’s drive to solve global problems, particularly for underdeveloped regions of the world.
Technologies that provide safe, sustainable water on tap advance multiple aspects of development. The 2017 WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program reported that 263 million people around the world spend at least 30 minutes round trip collecting water. This is time they are not spending furthering their education, tending to their health or engaging in income-generating activities. In 8 out of 10 households, where water collection is occurring for a half hour or more, the women are responsible for carrying out this chore. Therefore, having household access to a tap that provides drinking water empowers women, increases access to education and economically strengthens communities. All of these aspects make community-sustainable drinking water treatment plants a powerful intervention, and the motivation behind ACR’s mission.
The water treatment plants are designed to be built using locally available materials, can be operated by a person with a sixth-grade education, and are powered by gravity. This design allows the plants to be built and operated without having to import building materials or proprietary parts that are difficult to source in rural areas. This also allows local community members to operate the plant. Since its beginnings as a student program in 2005, 21 AguaClara plants have been built in Honduras and India, serving over 70,000 people total.
May is currently a staff engineer at GEI with a background in municipal drinking water treatment and its applications for low-income and under-developed regions globally. Her project experience includes construction oversight, observation of earthwork activities, pre-design investigation, erosion and sediment control inspection, environmental risk assessment, and conducting feasibility studies.
To learn more about AguaClara please visit: https://www.aguaclarareach.org.
About GEI: GEI’s multidisciplinary team of engineers, scientists, and planners deliver integrated water resources, environmental, ecological, geotechnical and waterfront engineering solutions to diverse clientele nationwide. The firm has provided a broad range of consulting and engineering services on over 50,000 projects in 50 states and 22 countries. For more information on GEI, please visit www.geiconsultants.com.
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