UT Students, Faculty Build Water Kiosk in Appalachia

Mar. 21, 2015

A group of UT students and faculty will spend spring break building a kiosk to bring clean water to one Appalachian community.

Over Spring Break 2015, the UT team will join community volunteers to erect the building at Red Bird Mission in Clay County, Kentucky. The kiosk will produce clean, drinkable water—a resource that’s lacking in the county. The water will be piped from an adjacent municipal water source and supplied through dispensing arms built onto the kiosk.

The build is part of a UT interdisciplinary project to improve Clay County’s wellness and disaster readiness. The county ranks near the bottom for the state’s major health indicators, including obesity, infant mortality, and disability.

“We’re excited about the kiosk. It’s going to be a great addition to the area because there’s nothing like it now,” said John McRae, an architecture professor and one of the project’s leaders. “We see it as a prototype for other locations in the region that might have similar problems.”

Currently, many Clay County residents get their water from contaminated wells and streams. The kiosk could potentially serve about 9,000 families, McRae said.

Residents, for a nominal fee, will be able to obtain clean water as needed from the kiosk at Red Bird, a project partner and agency that has been ministering in that region of Appalachia since 1921.

Students and faculty worked with Paulk and Company to build precast concrete panels, all of which will be hauled to Clay County on an eighteen-wheeler next week. Merit Construction has already poured the concrete slab in Clay County for the project.

The UT team plans to eventually put together a how-to guide for other underserved regions that may want to construct a similar kiosk.

The Appalachia Community Health and Disaster Readiness Project—led by the UT Global Disaster Nursing graduate program—combines the expertise of faculty and students from the College of Nursing, the College of Architecture and Design, the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and the Law Enforcement Innovation Center to address Clay County’s needs alongside community partners.

The three-year project is now in its second year.