Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

MS in Civil Engineering (M.S.C.E.)

Degree Granting Department

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Major Professor

James R. Mihelcic, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Mauricio Arias, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kenneth Trout, Ph.D.


NeatWork Design, Rural Gravity Flow Water Supply and Distribution, Aqueduct Expansion, Sustainable Development Goals


Goal 6 of the United Nations Development Program’s new Sustainable Development Goals aims to ensure availability of clean water and sustainable management practices to all by the year 2030. Peace Corps Panama partners with communities in order to help provide sustainable water solutions to communities in need. Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) Volunteers spend at least two years living in a community to identify and implement solutions to water problems and train local water committees on how to maintain their improved systems. A common solution for unequal distribution of flow in the distribution network of a gravity flow water system is through the installation of flow reducers before each faucet. These can be sized with the help of NeatWork, a free, downloadable compute software. In Panama, flow reducers (also referred to as orifices) are manufactured to create a perforated plastic diaphragm fitting placed in the distribution pipe or union section upstream of a faucet. They help ensure longevity of the aqueduct by balancing the flows between houses, thus, enabling continuous water flow for all users. An important characteristic of flow reducers is that while they can be installed in new water sys-tems, they can also be installed in existing systems to fix inequalities from inadequate original designs or extensions to the systems. However, little guidance exists for volunteers or commu-nities to ensure the sustainability of these projects. Accordingly, the object of this thesis was to investigate how adding houses to existing aqueducts would affect its serviceability and how to determine a way for communities to size the flow reducers for future houses.

The existing gravity flow water system in Santa Cruz, Panamá was surveyed including all the potential houses which were then analyzed using NeatWork. The results demonstrate that while it is better to include all potential locations during the initial survey, if it expands at an average growth rate, additional houses may decrease serviceability, but in a negligible way that will not affect the overall reliability of the distribution system.

Utilizing NeatWork, this research showed it is able to determine ideal sizes of flow reducers for additional houses that could be added. Patterns were identified and used to simplify flow reducer sizing so that community members could do it themselves. While most of the time, the ideal flow reducer size for a new house will be the same size as the flow reducer size that is installed in the closest house that is already connected to the aqueduct, sometimes this is not the case. This typically occurs towards the end of branches and in areas where not all flow reducer sizes are present. These areas are clearly identified to the water committee on a map of the distribution system that was provided to various water committee members. With this map and simple instructions, the Santa Cruz water committee can continue correctly adding flow reducers to new houses.

Through the research of this thesis, fabricating and installing flow reducers in the Santa Cruz water distribution system, and working alongside community members many lessons were learned about flow reducers and best practices. This knowledge has been converted into a guide about sustainable flow reducer projects. It has been left with current volunteers and the director of training for the WASH sector of Peace Corps Panama so that the volunteers can adapt the developed tools in their own communities.