Senior Geologist Jerry Wylie will present at national conference

I’ll present in San Francisco, but my heart will be in Nicaragua

By Jerry Wylie, P.G. (Posted Sept. 14, 2018):

SynTerra Principal Jerry Wylie and six Clemson University engineering students were thrilled to hit the jackpot — water. But there’s still lots of work to do, and strife in Nicaragua has stalled their return.

I’d love to write a storybook ending. It would tell of abundant clean water and ensuing prosperity. It would describe how a remote village in Nicaragua is thriving, not struggling amid countrywide unrest. It would highlight a return visit by selfless Clemson University students, not the limitations of assisting from afar.

But it is what it is, so on November 9, I’ll tell the real story — one of success, hope, and trepidation — to a wider audience. I’ll be a presenter at the Engineers Without Borders (EWB) national conference in San Francisco.

Early this year, I wrote about the Clemson EWB chapter’s December 2017 trek to El Serrano, a remote village in southeastern Nicaragua. I marveled at the dedication of several students who missed out on holiday activities to put sweat equity into a greater cause. I recounted the exhilaration of drilling a well (248 feet deep) that produces bountiful, clean water. With essential follow-up, several thousand villagers would finally have sustenance we take for granted. Since then, political unrest has paralyzed the country and stalled progress in El Serrano.

Maybe publicity will help. It will be my mission and my honor to represent both SynTerra and Clemson University at the EWB‒USA Conference set for November 8‒10. My abstract was selected, so I will present “Bedrock Fracture Trace Analysis for Optimal Well Location: Nicaragua Case Study.” I look forward to sharing some of the technical details about our successful well selection and installation work. I will describe how we used map analysis, GIS techniques and technologies, good old-fashioned field reconnaissance, and a little bit of good fortune (which never hurts in the world of hydrogeology) to select a promising well drilling site. EWB water supply projects are often multidisciplinary efforts, and my presentation will be designed to enlighten primarily undergraduate engineering students about a simple, fast, effective approach to improving the odds of drilling a successful water supply well in fractured rock aquifers.

The excitement about presenting is tempered by the plight of our friends in Nicaragua. They are having a rough time of things. Since April, citizens have engaged in countrywide protests, and there have been violent clashes with government paramilitary forces. Nicaragua, one of the poorest countries in Central America, made economic strides in the past decade. Tourism (volcanoes, beaches, ecotourism) was on the upswing, but political unrest has damaged the country’s economy and severely impacted the number of visitors to the country. EWB (and Clemson University) will not permit student chapters to travel to Nicaragua because of traveler safety concerns associated with the unrest.

For now, our chapter will work remotely with our friends in El Serrano on incremental progress (e.g., an electrical supply and a temporary storage tank) as we try to engineer solutions that incorporate the new supply of clean water. It is difficult to work remotely, but we will do all we can until our next trip to Nicaragua, hopefully in 2019.