An Engineer with a Can-Do Attitude and Generous Spirit

What might Iowa, FOX Engineering, and Tanzania have in common? The gifts of one talented water/wastewater engineer. Dave Fox, P.E., BCEE, spent decades devoted to improving the lives of Iowans through his engineering design skills. Where water and wastewater treatment are concerned, his work is the stuff legends are made of. Now retired, he applies his multiple talents, gifts, and generous spirit to bettering the lives of Tanzanians.

Dave has worked on several water projects in Tanzania, a remarkably beautiful eastern African country (population > 55 million).

Tanzania is home to numerous big-game reserves including the Serengeti National Park, volcanoes, and Africa’s highest mountain – Mount Kilimanjaro.

It is one of the most beautiful countries in the world; however, it is also one of the poorest.

Children in rural areas of Tanzania suffer substantially higher rates of malnutrition and chronic hunger. Low productivity in rural areas can be attributed to insufficient infrastructure investment, limited farm production, limited technology and trade, and heavy dependence on rain-fed agriculture and natural resources.

Slightly more than half the population has access to an improved water source, defined by UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) as “one that, by nature of its construction or through active intervention, is likely to be protected from outside contamination, in particular with fecal matter.”

Enter Dave Fox, his team, and the Water & Sanitation Rotarian Action Group (WASRAG) of Rotary International. In 2013 Rotary decided that, despite the best of intentions, their projects were failing as were many others.

Dave Fox, as part of the WASRAG team, worked with the Rotary Foundation to develop a workable system. “There had been no preliminary reports, no conventional project management, no interaction with the client – it was a failure of basic engineering. They left projects with no spare parts that residents didn’t know how to run, and had no idea how to maintain.

To begin, Rotary funded assessments which identified those most in need of help. Through the needs assessment process, the local stakeholders identified seven projects and prioritized them. Two projects have been completed, and the Tanzanian government decided to do one. We are deep in the process of design for the third. We are working with the 15-member Rotary Club in Same (pronounced Sah’may, population 25,000). It is important to involve someone locally to monitor progress or it won’t work.”

Excerpts from Dave’s report to Rotary:

The main purpose of the (most recent) trip was to provide initial water system training to the Masandare Village Water Committee and their selected system operators. In addition, we were to observe the installation of the borehole pump and attempt to get the system operational.

Major challenges had to be addressed in this project. Two dry boreholes (pic below with new pump and drop pipe – it looks like a pole) were experienced early in the project that added significant expense to the project and required relocation of the storage tank and significant extra piping to connect the new borehole site to the village. The new storage tank had to be placed at a location that was not the highest area to be served, thus complicating the project, and raising the cost even further. The primary school is at a higher elevation than the main storage tank, but has existing plastic storage tanks that are included in the system.

New pump and drop pipe – dry boreholes proved to be a challenge.

Masandare Village Water Committee members had spotless attendance records for training.

The project issues were evaluated and included a complete system redesign for improved service and control. After filling the system and completing disinfection, water was delivered to all nine distribution points for two days to complete cleaning the system and setting the system controls.

Dave helps to lift and balance a pail of water.

The villagers soon became aware that water was available at their new distribution points and lined up with all available containers to get this “free” water. Many of the areas served by the distribution points have not had any water available and have had to travel very long distances for water. Others have been served by distribution points served by the Same Town Water Authority, but that was at best only one or two days a week. All were very happy with the new system and reliable supply of good quality and safe water.

Fresh water is celebrated.


Running water near the latrine – simple hygiene

While on this trip (June 22-July 9, 2017), we also visited our first completed project which is in Kigogo (bldg. w/blue door) and found that operation to be running well. We investigated two problems that we were aware of and determined methods to fix them. Many improvements have been realized in Kigogo since they gained access to water. Many homes now have electricity. Several new homes have been constructed, and latrine and sanitary facilities have been improved. New crops and household gardens are being developed as well as increased size and improved condition of livestock herds.

Donkeys are an effective method of transport.

The first completed project, a well and structure in Kigogo, displays the names of 11 Iowa Rotary Clubs that donated resources to the effort.

Kigogo appears to be a model village for this type of water improvement Global Grant (Rotary origin). Along with local Rotarians and District Engineer, Mussa Msangi, (pic with man wearing ISU cap) we visited our upcoming Global Grant project site in Mhezi. We talked with village leaders, and toured all sites they would like to serve with the proposed water system, including the site of their existing spring water source. Engineer Msangi and I decided that a preliminary survey of the project is mandatory to get adequate detailed information for a good design. He volunteered his staff to do the survey that will take about two weeks and cost about $1,400.

Water access provided by the first project in Kigogo brought many benefits – the foundation for a new home is seen here.

Dave Fox with Same’s five operators.

Local engineer Mussa Msangi, center, is a valuable resource to residents.

Thanks to the generosity of many members of the Rotary Club of Ames, Iowa, I had the pleasure of awarding Paul Harris Fellow awards to all members of the Same Rotary club for their work and support of all the projects. 

All in all, this was a very successful trip with good outcomes, and so far, all continues to go well.

The residents of Same and Kigogo have seen many benefits from the installation and availability of water: increased access to electricity, new businesses, improved hygiene and sanitary facilities, new housing, (pic above with home being built) household gardens, new crops, and improved conditions for livestock. One new crop, a variety of Amaranth – a grain shown to improve diet, has also been the “seed” for new businesses and the road to sustainable income. With profit from crops and excess from home gardens, villagers are becoming more self-sufficient. They have more time because they don’t have to walk so far for water. Their schools have power now; with lights available, they are able to study at night. Water is the lifeblood of humanity and industry.

When Dave and his colleagues leave, the local operators are not without resources. They have undergone hours of training, and have access to a local engineer. There is also the security of knowing that 5% of construction costs has been set aside for future maintenance.

Dave adds, “They’re appreciative, and if something goes wrong, they figure out how to fix it. They don’t complain.”  This sounds like someone else we know. Thank you for your work, Dave. It is meaningful to many.

Water makes us happy!

FOX Engineering is an environmental engineering firm based in Ames, Iowa. We specialize in water and wastewater solutions for our diverse municipal and industrial clients. Our work varies in size and scope and can be found throughout the Midwest and beyond.