Water for Life - Providing sustainable off-grid purified water to the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation - Dr. Vasiliki Karanikola

Water for Life - Dr. Vasiliki Karanikola

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Vasiliki (Vicky) Karanikola is working with communities in northeast part of The Navajo Nation such as Leupp, Tolani Lake, Cameron, Birdsprings, and Coalmine Chapters, as well as the former Bennett Freeze Area and the Apache tribe to understand the technical and social challenges they face in order to have access to clean water and develop a plan that will provide quality of life within the community.

One thing that propelled Dr. Karanikola’s work in the communities was “the unimaginable idea that only two to three hours away from Tucson and Phoenix (major urban centers in Arizona), there are developing communities struggling for life. No access to clean water, no electricity, no access to vegetable and crops and living conditions that no one sees.”

It was then that Dr. Karanikola partnered with Bryce Barnes, president of the Nalwoodi Denzhone Community Board, to work on a project called Water for Life, main aim of which is to provide sustainable off-grid purified water and water to meet the agricultural needs of the San Carlos community in the Apache Tribal Land.

Dr. Karanikola and Mr. Barnes visited the community multiple times during the last year and had multiple calls and meetings with non-profits and the community members which helped them to advance their water treatment research. The research has improved (i) resilience of the communities by providing the means to benefit from the use of alternative energy sources to mitigate water scarcity issues (ii) environmental health by treating water sources of impaired quality in marginalized communities of the Nation and (iii) opportunities for growth by creating business models for the communities grow in relation with water, food and energy.

The project “is more about community development rather than a technology implementation”, Dr. Karanikola said. Even so, the team is planning “to refurbish existing wells on the San Carlos Apache Nation, provide an off-grid, solar powered treatment system to (i) purify water and (ii) train socially disadvantaged, marginalized youth on the San Carlos Apache Nation and surrounding rural communities in the art and science of water purification which could serve as a model for sustainable water services in communities lacking central water and power infrastructures on the Reservation and elsewhere.”

Next steps for Dr. Karanikola are to continue creating University-community partnerships to address some of the challenges that tribal lands and other Southwest communities are facing in relation to water, energy, food, and climate change.

Learn more about Dr. Karanikola's Water for Life project here: https://uanews.arizona.edu/story/engineers-bring-life-source-san-carlos-apache-community

Vasiliki Karanikola, Ph.D., is a Research Professor at the University of Arizona’s Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering.

Dr. Karanikola’s work focuses on the development and improvement of advanced water treatment technologies to provide safe water sources at off-grid locations in marginalized communities. Dr. Karanikola serves as the faculty advisor of the Engineers Without Borders - University of Arizona Chapter (EWB-UA), where she works to provide engineering consultation services to the San Carlos Apache Reservation located in Southeastern Arizona and an irrigation project in the Dominican Republic.

Dr. Karanikola received an Agnese Nelms Haury Program Faculty Fellow award in January 2017.