Georgia Southern University

Georgia Southern University Students and Faculty Design New Water System for Town of Vidette, Ga.

eagleheadWith an outdated water distribution system that has deteriorated through nearly a century of use, the town of Vidette, Ga., could literally dry up. However, a team of Georgia Southern University students and faculty has stepped in to keep that from happening.

The existing water system in the small Burke County town is in poor shape, with no capabilities for fighting fires, low water pressure, a small well, small distribution lines, few cutoff valves and no water meters. Fixing a leak has at times required shutting off water to the entire town, and the system’s age is making leaks increasingly common.

Without the resources to design a new system and unable to secure federal funding because the town’s per capita income is too high, Mayor Rob Peel turned to Georgia Southern University. In the summer of 2007, he explained the town’s plight to Brian Moore, the chair of Georgia Southern’s Department of Construction Management and Civil Engineering Technology.

“We had been denied another grant, and I thought, there’s always another way to do something,” Peel said.

Georgia Southern Construction Management and Civil Engineering Technology students and faculty jumped at the chance to help. Over more than two years beginning in October 2007, nearly 40 students and five faculty members put in countless hours to design a new water distribution system for the 110 residents in Vidette’s 32 homes.

The team from Georgia Southern made nine trips to Vidette and collected approximately 2,200 data points across more than 60 acres. The students then created a three-dimensional plan of the town showing all current residences and commercial buildings, as well as the ground surface at or near the locations of all new pipes and a water tank.

The new system is designed to serve twice the current population of Vidette. The distribution lines would have a looped design with valves located to ensure that future leak repairs would not require interrupting service for all town residents. All users would have water meters and, once a reservoir is added, the system would be able to support fire protection.

The project not only gave the students valuable hands-on experience, but also a chance to help others. ‘We need our students to see the importance of not just learning and working, but serving the community,” said construction management professor Gustavo Maldonado, who led the project.

“It’s great to survey points around campus, but going out and collecting data that will actually be used to help a community is a valuable experience,” said Sean Dudley, a construction management major who collected the most data points per day among the participating students.

Along with Georgia Southern’s assistance, an engineer from Thomas & Hutton Engineering Co., Chris Stovall, and a registered land surveyor, Tate Horton, donated their services at no charge. Providing the design services for free saved the Town of Vidette an estimated $25,000.

“This partnership between Georgia Southern University, industry and a community shows how higher education should function. The students gain professional experience, the industrial partner garners an interest in potential employees and recognition in the community, and the community has a need fulfilled. The quality of education, the quality of life, and the economic outlook all improve,” said Bret Danilowicz, dean of the Allen E. Paulson College of Science and Technology.

In addition to designing the new water distribution system, the Georgia Southern students estimated the cost of the construction (approximately $600,000) and looked into possible funding sources. The proposal will soon be submitted to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division for approval.

“This project has meant everything to us,” Peel said. ‘Whether we can get a grant or not, we can at least start and get the work done in stages.”

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