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Title: AguaClara  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Water treatment, Open design, Honduras
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Founded 2005
Founder Monroe Weber-Shirk
Type Nonprofit organization
Focus Sustainable Water Treatment
Method Open Source Technology
Members ~55
Key people Monroe Weber-Shirk - Program Director
Website .edu.cornellaguaclara

AguaClara is an engineering based project team within Cornell University's Civil and Environmental Engineering Department[1] that designs sustainable water treatment plants using open source technology. The programs' aims are to "improve drinking water quality through innovative research, knowledge transfer, open source engineering and design of sustainable, replicable water treatment systems."[2] AguaClara plants are unique among municipal-scale facilities in that they have no electrical or complex mechanical components and instead operate through hydraulic processes driven by gravity.

The AguaClara program provides undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to enhance their education through hands-on experience working on projects with real applications. In 2012, the National Academy of Engineering showcased AguaClara as one of the 29 engineering program at US colleges that effectively incorporates real world experiences in their curriculum.[3]

AguaClara is partnered with Agua para el Pueblo (Water for People), a NGO working in Honduras who manages the construction and technical support for AguaClara plants.


AguaClara was formed in 2005 by Cornell University professor Monroe Weber-Shirk, who volunteered in Central American refugee camps during the 1980s. Weber-Shirk used the connections he developed through his volunteer work to partner with Jacabo Nuñez, the director of Agua para el Pueblo to find the answer to a crucial question: What can we do to treat the dirty water that we are providing to rural communities?

In 2005, he founded the AguaClara program to address the need for sustainable municipal scale water treatment in resource poor communities. The first AguaClara plant was built in 2006 in Ojojona to serve a population of 2000 people. Currently, there are 8 AguaClara designed plants throughout Honduras serving over 30,000 people.[4]

Design tool

AguaClara has developed an automated design tool that allows interested parties to input basic design parameters such as flow rate into a simple frontend and receive customized designs via email in five minutes or less. The user frontend communicates with the AguaClara server to populate MathCad scripts that calculate design parameters for input into AutoCAD scripts, which produce the final design. The design algorithms can be continuously improved and any changes will be immediately implemented the next time a design is requested.[5]

The AguaClara design tool applies an [6] including 100 million using surface water sources that would be viable for treatment with AguaClara technology. From the AguaClara website:

Thus 125 million people need AguaClara water treatment plants. If we further assume that our goal is to meet this demand in 10 years and that there are an average of 12,000 people per water treatment plant, we obtain an estimate of 1000 plants per year! This estimate does not include population growth or the need to replace aging infrastructure.[7]


AguaClara designs gravity-powered water treatment plants that require no electricity and are constructed by its implementation partners. The plants use hydraulic flocculators and high-flow vertical-flow sedimentation tanks to remove turbidity from surface waters.

Location Partner Construction Start Inauguration Date Population Served Design flow (LPM)
Ojojona, HON APP 2006 June 2007 July 2000 375
Tamara, HON APP 2008 January 2008 June 3500 720
Marcala, HON IRWA[8] 2007 October 2008 July 9000 1900
4 Comunidades, HON APP 2008 October 2009 March 2000 375
Agalteca, HON APP 2009 October 2010 June 2200 375
Marcala, HON Expansion APP/ACRA[9] 2010 November 2011 May 6000 1300
Alauca, El Paraiso, HON APP 2011 May 2012 February 3600 720
Atima, Santa Barbara, HON APP 2011 December 2012 May 4000 960

La 34, or "La treinta y quatro," once a numbered plantation run by United Fruit, is the first site of an AguaClara plant.[10] Construction on the La 34 plant began in December 2004 and was inaugurated in August 2005. The plant serves a population of 2000 with a design flow of 285 LPM.

Marcala The Marcala plant began in the Fall of 2007 and was completed in June 2008. The plant was upgraded in May 2011 to a flow rate of 3200 LPM.

Cuatro Comunidades In the Fall of 2008, the AguaClara team designed a water treatment plant with shallower tanks that doesn't need an elevated platform for the plant operator. The full scale pilot facility for this new design was built for the four communities of Los Bayos, Rio Frio, Aldea Bonito and Las Jaguas. Construction was completed in March 2009.


  • The Sanjuan Fund
  • Ken Brown '74 & Elizabeth Sanjuan
  • Rotary Clubs
  • Cornell University School of Civil & Environmental Engineering
  • Cornell University College of Engineering
  • Engineers for a Sustainable World
  • National Rural Water Association
  • EPA P3 Award Student design competition for sustainability
  • Kaplan Family Distinguished Faculty Fellowships (CU Public Service)

Awards and Recognition

  • 2012 NAE "Infusing World Experiences into Engineering Education"[11]
  • 2011 Intel Environment Tech Award[12]

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ "Welcome to CEE - School of Civil and Environmental Engineering". 
  2. ^ "AguaClara's About page". 
  3. ^ "AguaClara featured in NAE Report". 
  4. ^ "AguaClara completed plants". 
  5. ^ "Link to download design tool from AguaClara website". Retrieved May 16, 2011. 
  6. ^ "WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program". Retrieved May 15, 2011. 
  7. ^ "AguaClara and Sustainability". Retrieved May 15, 2011. 
  8. ^ "International Rural Water Association". 
  9. ^ "Cooperazione Rurale in Africa e America Latina". 
  10. ^ "Students' project in Honduras brought clean water to rural village", Cornell University News Service, July 28, 2005.
  11. ^ "NAE article on AguaClara". 
  12. ^ The Tech Awards. "The Tech Awards Laureates 2011"

External links

  • Official website
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