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Amphibious Water Treatment System (AWTS)

The amphibious water treatment system (AWTS) can reach flooded, inaccessible areas during typhoons and turn the flood into drinking water.

Photo of Marc Adrian dela Rosa
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The 7,107 islands of the Philippines experience heavy rainfall annually. Without fail, the heavy downpour brings with it intense flooding, which seems to become worse every year especially for those living in areas below sea level or places with under designed drainage systems. When this happens, some areas become inaccessible and the people affected are disconnected from the rest of the city. If they’re not prepared for the typhoon or heavy rainfall, they have limited ways to obtain food and water until the flood subsides, which sometimes could take days. One way we might mitigate the effects of excessive flooding is to create an amphibious water treatment system. This mobile treatment plant (ideally solar powered) will be able to navigate through flooded areas. It will use floodwater as raw water and turn it into drinking water through ultrafiltration, reverse osmosis, and ultraviolet disinfection. The water produced by the machine will be distributed to the affected community. If several units of this machine were deployed, it may help hasten the draw down of flooding and reduce the load of drain pipes. It may also greatly relieve the people without drinking water during calamities.


People living in densely populated slums and low lying urban areas are the primary beneficiaries of this idea. During rainy seasons, these places are greatly affected by floods. With AWTS, they can have potable water straight from the flood waters. The people will be less reliant on relief goods or outside help since they can produce their own drinking water. The idea will be implemented in Manila, PH - it has a lot of slum areas and floods almost always happen with the slightest rainfall.


The city of Manila has been doing a lot of reworks in terms of drainages and community relocation. To aid the efforts of the local government, the AWTS will help people directly affected by floods become more secure because they now have a way to control and utilize flood water, something that used to be a great burden. Also, this will help in the relief operations of the government because they can reduce the need for additional bottled water. On a daily basis, most people living in slum areas have difficulty obtaining inexpensive drinking water. During rainy seasons, the AWTS will do its duty of converting flood water to drinking water. Interestingly, a lot of slum areas in Manila are situated near polluted creeks. The AWTS can be used for treating the dirty water and become a source of livelihood for the people, especially during dry seasons. By showing them the importance of drinking water, they would even think twice when they throw their wastes into the nearby creeks – since they now know that someday, they’re going to drink the water that used to contain their garbage. In addition, this idea is not limited to the urban slums. This can be used for the rest of the city that experiences flooding. This can help the rest of the city adapt to the worsening floods.


  • Yes, for two or more years


  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for at least two years


  • Yes


I'm an engineer working with Maynilad, a private water company in the Philippines. I have been part of the operations team that treat water from what's considered as the 'largest septic tank' in the Philippines and I believe that we can do the same for our flood waters. Let's collaborate! :)


Join the conversation:

Photo of Matt Siebert

I really like this idea, but I'd like to see it taken into two more directions. I'm not a ROWPU expert or any type of engineer, but here goes - this looks a little high-tech. It appears to need 4 separate complex components - UV light source, ROWPU modules, ultrafilter, and a pump.

Marc, can you design two more, one Low-Tech and one No-Tech? Military versions of rugged ROWPUs are great, but they can also eat lots of fuel and parts - and are dependent on specialized training and a support infrastructure to maintain operations over medium- to long-duration.

How might we design filtration systems for flood zones that could be constructed from locally available materials, was powered by either natural or human locomotion, was independent of support or supply chains, and generated enough potable water to sustain approximately the same number of people through a flood?

Photo of Marc Adrian dela Rosa

Hello Matt! :)

Thank you for the feedback! Yeah, it looks a little hi-tech, but most of these can be obtained separately in modules. One of the challenges I have with this idea is how to make it inexpensive and easy to use. This idea came across when our company was doing relief operations in rural areas but our mobile equipment can't reach the beneficiaries because of floods along the way. So what if we are able to cross the floods and then treat the water along the way?

If we're thinking of doing low to no-tech, I think we should collect the water before it even becomes dirty, for it to be treated using conventional systems, like sand filters. Here in the Philippines, houses in the slums are very close together, usually just separated by walls. What if we use the roofs of the whole area as a "catchment basin" then collect the water into a low tech water treatment plant, or even just an off-the-shelf UV light source? Or a dilute bleach solution?

What if we convert parts of their house as "filters" during rainy seasons, such as their roofs or floors?

Or what if we teach people to clean their surroundings so that when it floods, the water quality would not be as bad as it is right now. This is more of a social movement though, and this requires for them to change their habits and develop better discipline. Maybe I'll pass this as another idea.

Thanks for that HMW! Made my mind stretch a bit further. :D Back to the drawing board!

Photo of Matt Siebert

Hello Marc!
Collecting the water before it becomes contaminated would be ideal - your comment on the nature of houses in slum areas (small proximity) gives me another idea. Here goes -

On converting houses - My experience tells me that slum housing is not particularly robust. Water is heavy - I think it weighs something like a kilogram per cubic liter. Distributing that weight across a dwelling roof in the midst of a monsoon and flood may cause more problems than it solves. But what about those walls you mentioned?

How might we design a wall for the perimeter of a dwelling, or of the dwelling itself, that both collected and filtered rainwater via gravity? If such a wall were wide enough, the weight of several hundred kilograms of sand and water could be physically stabilized for long-term use. Iterations of this technique might also provide families with means to continuously filter potable water apart from rains, but that would entail moving large quantities of water to the filter wall. Another benefit might be that replacing a roof or floor in an economically poor area is asking a lot - a single wall might be lower-impact to the dwellers. Using roofs as a catchment is great - I suspect that the weight of the water should go where it does not pose a risk.

(Hmm - I wonder if one might build a water filter out of sand, PVC pipes, and old tires...?)

Another idea I had for your AWTS - the locomotion of a pump generates pressure to push or pull water through a filter medium. I mention another source of power above (gravity), and there's a third - osmotic pressure. Can we combine the principles of gravity and osmosis?

Could you design a filtration system comprised of a bowl or ball that could be floated in floodwater, constructed of dense, porous or semi-porous filtration medium, that would draw in and collect filtered water? Such a device could be anchored in place to prevent it floating away, and provide enough water for people to survive on in an emergency while lowering the risk of infection or illness from contaminated water. A closed bowl or ball also eliminates the need for an additional flotation device (Boyle's law), but would need to be able to release gas at a rate sufficient to allow the filtration process to take place. A porous material might serve that purpose as well - again, I'll disclose that I'm not an engineer or industrial designer.

I support your notion on community sanitation, and I even put my idea about it here in this challenge as a proposed first step to building communities - I concur that it's a social movement, and your sense that people are all for preparing for climate change, so long as they don't have to change their habits or do anything. ;^)

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