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AguaClara Modular Chemical Dose Controller

A low cost Chemical Dose Controller to automate chlorine dosing for drinking water treatment in villages ranging from 250-1000 people.

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Ground water that does not need to be treated for turbidity still needs to be disinfected with Chlorine before it can be distributed to a community.  This Chemical Dose Controller is designed to be a low maintenance, long term solution for chemically treating low turbidity ground water.  The system uses a technology invented by the AguaClara program at Cornell University to automate chlorine dosing without electricity (once the water reaches the treatment unit).  The system relies on a Linear Flow Orifice Meter (LFOM) to linearly correlate a variable flow rate with the adequate chlorine dose. As the LFOM varies the water level linearly in the entrance tank, a float attached to one side of a lever arm correlates the flow rate with a dosing tube attached to the other end of the lever arm.  An appropriate Chlorine dose then drips from the dosing tube into the influent water where it can be dispatched immediately to a community distribution system, or sent to a storage tank.  

To deliver water to the treatment unit, the team proposes the use of solar pumps.  These solar pumps would most likely draw from shallow wells that are free of heavy metal or flouride contaminants, but may also be used with surface water sources with turbidity below 5 NTU.  This unit will require minimal oversight by a community plant operator who may need to check on the doser once per day.  The operator will be responsible for maintaining the correct chlorine dose and cleaning the unit as necessary using the vinegar valve to purge the system.  The dosing design will be scalable to fit varying community sizes. Fabrication of the system can be done locally using readily available materials (aluminum frame, pvc pipe, drum stock tank, lever arm).

How would you describe the stage of development of your idea?

  • Ready for piloting

How big or scalable is the potential of your idea?

These dosers will integrate cleanly into any overhead tank water supply, which are the dominant supply system for villages throughout India. The design for this Modular Chemical Dose Controller can be scaled for communities ranging in size from 250-1000 people, but the technology could also be modified to suit communities as large as 15,000 people. While these dosers can be used as a stand-alone treatment option when the turbidity is less than 5 NTU, they can also be integrated into existing systems that have other forms of treatment but lack low cost disinfection. Thus this doser could redefine water treatment disinfection in the estimated 30,000 rural Indian communities that do not have access to clean drinking water.

Explain the sustainability aspect of your idea

The project is sustainable in that all energy demands would come from solar pumps, there are no moving parts prone to failure within the dosing unit, and it can be constructed and easily built from locally available materials. In addition, the unit requires little day to day maintenance, and can be operated by a paid member of the community. Furthermore, the unit will be supported by technicians in local NGOs trained extensively by AguaClara LLC engineers. The technology will need to be coupled with extensive training for partner organizations in order to scale the technology appropriately and ensure long term project sustainability. AguaClara LLC and its local partners will also seek to address water and sanitation capacity building during the implementation of the project in each community.

What types of financing would be required for your idea to be successful?

The team would use the budgeted $250,000 in order to establish Modular Chemical Dose Controllers in 20 communities and train the implementation partner for long term project sustainability. Once the implementation partner has been trained, and the technology successfully piloted, these units should be fit for mass production in India bringing the unit cost per Chemical Dose Controller down significantly. Financing for the units themselves will be low enough ($5000-8500 USD) that it is possible the local communities (or larger municipalities) themselves could pay for the capital cost of their own technology. One time implementation partner training and piloting the technology will require the largest portion of the project budget. Funding to provide trainings for additional implementation partners in other states of India could come from government grants, and or other sources of blended capital.

If you are proposing to partner with other organizations, please explain their role and reason for partnership.

A local partner organization is essential for onsite fabrication and implementation of AguaClara Chemical Dose Controllers in order to provide site feasibility analysis, local construction expertise, and to help orchestrate a community development program centered on water, sanitation, and hygiene awareness. AguaClara LLC will provide design, technical services, long term performance and monitoring, and development consulting to both the community and the implementation partner. The implementation partner will be essential for moving this technology toward a large scale, and even more critical for helping to build capacity in local communities. Our partners undergo comprehensive technology training provided by AguaClara LLC so that they can carry other projects forward independently in the future.

In-country experience

  • Yes, for two or more years

If you have been operating in India, what has been your focus?

AguaClara LLC has been on the ground in India since 2013 in partnership with PRADAN and the Tata Cornell Initiative. Efforts have been primarily focused in the villages of Gufu and Ronhe in the state of Jharkhand to install two pilot chemical dosers, as well as six full scale enclosed stacked rapid sand filters for drinking water treatment. Additionally, two more pilot chemical dose controllers have been installed in the villages of Jolhakarma and Durgunia. Together, these AguaClara technologies treat water for over 2,000 residents. This project was carried out with AguaClara LLC engineers on the ground in collaboration with PRADAN as the implementation partner. Our Sand Filters are a low cost, gravity powered solution for turbidity removal, and could also function in conjunction with the proposed Modular Chemical Dose Controller. AguaClara LLC is not formally registered in India, but has been on the ground in India for over two years working with our partners.

Is your organization currently legally registered in India?

  • No

What states or districts will you target/are you targeting within India?

So far AguaClara LLC has only worked in Jharkhand, India. However, the team is actively scoping for projects in the states of Delhi, Gujarat, Odisha, and West Bengal. Northern states may also be especially ideal for gravity powered AguaClara technologies that can take advantage of greater variability in geography change, and therefore reduce the need for solar pumps.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

AguaClara LLC is comprised of several engineers from Cornell University, individuals focused on our market based approach, and a Senior Director. The team has multiple core technologies, including a full scale plant (Chemical Dosing, Rapid Mix, Flocculation, Sedimentation, Stacked Rapid Sand Filtration), Enclosed Stacked Rapid Sand Filters, and the proposed Modular Chemical Dose Controller. These technologies currently provide clean drinking water on tap for nearly 50,000 individuals in Honduras, and the team is eager to continue growing in India. The team is interested in continuing work in India because the need is great, and AguaClara technologies are poised to make an incredible difference throughout the country. We truly believe that we have the right gravity powered technology, and the right community empowerment based implementation approach to make a sustainable impact on India’s water treatment problems now, and for a long time to come! Info at: http://www.aguaclarallc.com

Is this a new or recent idea for your organization? How does it differ from what you are already doing?

The chemical dose control technology has been under research since the start of the AguaClara academic program in 2005. The design has undergone multiple iterations over several implementations. In India, we installed the smallest version of the doser ever designed, using it to disinfect shallow well waters that were either very clean to begin with, or slightly turbid waters that had undergone stacked rapid sand filtration. We found that the doser was an inexpensive, easy-to-maintain technology that was apt for the dominant water quality issues where we were working. Furthermore, we found that it was widely applicable across many water supply systems in the region. Recognizing this, we have created a vastly improved design that improves the modularity, ease of installation, and ease of maintenance as compared to the pilot installations in India. We believe this new design can be easily pre-manufactured and also repaired conveniently at the village level using locally-available parts.

What are the two or three biggest risks for your idea and how will you manage the risks?

1) Vulnerability of the existing water infrastructure. If the existing water supply system is inequitable or if it is prone to frequent shutdowns then the full health benefit of the dosers cannot be realized. Thus, it is important that our pilot sites are carefully vetted for proper infrastructure. 2) Improper repair of the systems. Because the technology looks so simple and it is so easy to swap out parts, it is possible that the local operators will replace parts with the wrong sizes of materials. It is very difficult to impress upon the operators and sometimes even partners that a small change in tube diameter will have huge consequences in the accuracy of the chemical dose. If the operators see chemical flowing, they assume everything is working fine without checking the quantity of chemical flow. In the new modular system, a calibration column has been added to the drop tube so the operator can check the flow rate of the system. Detailed part spec sheets will also be on hand.

How would you propose to track or record the households or customers reached?

We can easily track the number of communities reached simply by communicating with the NGO regarding how many installations they have made. In terms of knowing which individual households are benefiting from the system, the best way would be to look at the account books of the Village Water and Sanitation Committees to see how many households have been consistently paying for water service. One expects the number of households paying to stabilize around the one year mark.

If you had two years and $250,000 USD in funding, how many households or customers would you reach?

We think we can reach close to 7,000 people with 20 Modular Chemical Dose Controllers. Our assumption is that each Chemical Dose Controller will cost between $5,000-$8,500 with the higher value assuming a loss of material due to mistakes during the first fabrications, testing, and the possibility of scrapping the first fabricated pieces altogether. We assume each Chemical Dose Controller will treat approximately 1 L/s (although this is scalable!), and that each person in a community needs approximately 3mL/s of water throughout the day. More importantly, we think that after the first implementations have been deemed successful, these dosers could be commercially produced by a local fabricator and implemented on a much larger scale by our partner NGO.

How would you propose to invest $250,000 USD if you received philanthropic/grant funding support from Water.org?

The funding would be used for both capacity building of the partner NGO and the doser materials. Two AguaClara engineers would work on site to develop training for at least one engineer and one technician from the partner NGO. Direct training (execution of training modules and practical field work) and indirect training (assistance and oversight) would be carried out over 6 months. The AguaClara engineers would collaborate with the partner engineer and technician to develop community-level and operator-level training. AguaClara will also provide oversight as the partner carries out the community and operator training to ensure accuracy. The 6 months of capacity building would cost $90,000 including all overheads. Quality assurance provided by AguaClara Engineers during fabrication would cost $30,000, including all overheads. Two AguaClara engineers would carry out monitoring and evaluation of the systems for 3 months following fabrication, costing roughly $45,000 with overhead.

What type of support beyond grant funding are you most interested in?

We are most interested in links to other partner organizations that could help with both the technical implementation and community mobilization. Finding the right partner organization is the key to a successful implementation that will provide long term sustainability. Engineering support on the project management side would also be valuable during the initial implementation phases.

Does your organization have Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) approval?

AguaClara LLC is a US-based company. Training and capacity building costs normally come directly to us. For funds that must be spent in-country, we work with a local NGO. We would like to find an NGO with FCRA approval to receive funds for local costs.

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I think that is a great project!

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