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Biosand Filtration

A simple point-of-use, in home device that purifies water for cleaner and safer drinking practice.

Photo of Sonia Doshi
8 12

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EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

The need for clean drinking water is particularly important in urban slum areas. Lack of access to filtered drinking water could result in a variety of diseases, especially dangerous in close living environments. Biosand filters are capable of reducing turbidity, metals, and microbial contamination in water. The filter consists of layers of natural sand and gravel that remove pathogens in the water. These filters are fairly simple and cheap to build and, if maintained appropriately, could provide filtered water to a home for up to fifty years. Offering this type of technology along with the appropriate education on the importance of clean water in these urban slum communities could significantly improve access to quality potable water. Inspired by a student organization I am involved with: http://bluelab.engin.umich.edu/

WHO BENEFITS?

The beneficiaries of this project would be urban slum residents in any community identified as lacking and in need of clean water. They would also receive the proper education and training to utilize biosand filters with an understanding of the importance of clean water as it pertains to their own health.

HOW DOES YOUR IDEA TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE CONTEXT OF URBAN SLUMS AND CLIMATE CHANGE?

This technology would require the help of engineers, students, and teachers in any city willing to take on the education, development, and implementation of this project. Volunteers passionate about teaching the importance of clean water and personal hygiene will be crucial to the success of this project by first working with the community members to educate them on this issue so that they adopt the use of the filter for the long term. The technology itself maximizes limited resources in that it can be built using inexpensive materials found in an urban slum community, depending on the location. The filters could be designed in collaboration with the urban slum residents to provide them with the experience to replicate the technology throughout their community and have an understanding of maintaining the filters for the long term. This filter would be a design for the ordinary in that it would be ideally integrated into the every day lives of these residents.

IN-COUNTRY EXPERIENCE

  • Yes, for one year or less

EXPERTISE

  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for less than one year

GEOGRAPHIC FOCUS

  • This idea is meant to inspire - I hope someone else takes it on!

TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF

I am a student at the University of Michigan, studying User Experience Design. I worked on an engineering team that designed and implemented biosand filters for a rural mountain community in Jamaica that was facing a similar challenge in maximizing their own clean water.

8 comments

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Spam
Photo of Arif Khan
Team

You have a great idea, Sonia! I believe it will be a very doable proposition to deploy these filters to ensure safe, clean drinking water to slum dwellers, countrywide.

I especially thought the way you have taken the delivery tube back up to the water surface level to prevent any sand from flowing out to be very intelligent design!

I should like to make a suggestion. It would be nice if you could add a water reservoir with a tap to draw water from below the filter assembly to collect the water as it filters and comes out of the delivery tube.

I wish you all the best.

Spam
Photo of Simon Hart
Team

Hi Sonia. I think this is a great idea!

I'd be really interested to hear more ideas about how the local community could be shown how to make these out of the materials they have to hand - old oil drums, plastic bins, pans etc - the sort of things they make slum buildings out of anyway. Also some ideas about how to get the water into the containers, and linking multiple containers to store more water. I bet the local residents are experts on how to make tools and devices out of just about anything they have lying around.

Getting these to work on an individual home level is one tier - how about getting much bigger versions working at the street/ zone level, picking up surface water that isn't captured in the individual units and providing a central hub for water to those that don't have their own units yet. This could be where the education is carried out - the local water butt. And a palce to pick up the raw mateirals to make your own.

Teach a man to fish!

Spam
Photo of Sonia Doshi
Team

Hi Simon!

Thanks for your comment. One of the design restrictions that we had on the biosand filter designs that we were implementing as an engineering team in the rural mountain community of Jamaica was to limit our resources to materials that would be accessible to the community from their local hardware store or community supply collection so that our designs would be sustainable. Like you suggested, for our larger biosand filter designs, we used a 32-gallon, round, plastic garbage bin to function as casing that was readily used in the community and available at their hardware store. The metal screens required for the filtering layers may be a more difficult material to acquire, in addition to the sand and gravel needed for the filtering process, but the screens, at least, could be repurposed from chicken wire or door screens found in the slums.

I like the concept of creating a street/zone level hub of filters, especially as a central space for training. That would significantly enhance the sustainability of the design and wold be a great education space.

Thanks for all of your input! I appreciate it.

Spam
Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Congrats on this being today's Featured Contribution!

Spam
Photo of Sonia Doshi
Team

Wow - how cool! Thank you so much!

Spam
Photo of Shane Zhao
Team

Exciting to hear about this Biosand Filtration project in Jamaica Sonia! Can you share with us a bit more about this project? We're curious to learn if the team that you were working with is still engaged in this initiative? We'd love to hear more about this if it's an ongoing idea in rural Jamaica or another community.

And welcome to the OpenIDEO community. Here's a friendly tip: update your OpenIDEO profile so folks will know who they're collaborating with. Think skills, experience, passions & wit. Looking forward to seeing more of you across conversations on this challenge!

Spam
Photo of Sonia Doshi
Team

Hi Shane! Thanks so much! BLUELab is a student organization on campus that consists of project teams that develop and implement human-centered design projects around the world. Each team is dedicated to one specific community, and my team, BLUELab Hagley Gap, has been working in Jamaica for about 7 years now. For the first 5-6 years, we had been refining and implementing biosand filters in the community, focusing on water accessibility projects. However, we had some difficulty getting the community to adopt and utilize our products for the long term. When I became project leader last year, I had the team conduct a thorough needs assessment of the community to really reassess what the priorities of the community were so that our projects could have a more lasting impact. We ended up finding that education was an area that was lacking attention and was more highly valued by the community than water, so we actually decided to redirect our focus to school and community-development projects. Since this shift, we have been working on a soundproofing project in the classrooms and a classroom resources project (implementing whiteboards, safe soccer goals, modular desks). This upcoming year, we are also focusing on a third project where we will be developing an industrial solar dehydrator for the community's farmers to be able to utilize and sell dried fruits. Shifting our direction really expanded our potential to impact the community and strengthened our relationship with the community in terms of their willingness to work with us and trust us.

However, it's important to note we have not completely abandoned our water accessibility project. During our past two trips, we have restarted four biosand filters and trained community members to effectively maintain them, which are still functioning today, and we continue to conduct lesson plans related to personal hygiene and clean water during our regular trips to the community.

We also work with an NGO partner, the Blue Mountain Project, that has representatives in country year-round working on a wider variety of initiatives related to developing and improving the living standards in Hagley Gap, one of which is specifically focused on water.

Bluelab's website: http://bluelab.engin.umich.edu/
Blue Mountain Project's website: https://www.bluemountainproject.org/

Hope this helps! I'd be happy to give you more information, if you have any other questions.

Spam
Photo of Shane Zhao
Team

Thanks for the details Sonia! Great to hear that the Bluelab team is continuing to educate the community on personal hygiene and clean water. It'll be helpful to update your idea post with the links to Bluelab. This way, the links will be more visible to people who will be reading through your post for the first time :T