Thursday, May 10, 2012

Save Lives, One Filter at a Time

About 2500 children die each day from lack of clean drinking water. The most affected are the populations in developing countries, living in extreme conditions of poverty…

We can help reduce that number.

In my graduate research, I am collaborating with a non-profit organization in California, Safe Water International (SWI), to develop a water filter that will provide clean drinking water for people in need. However, to get this project off the ground, I need your help.

Why is this project crucial? 

If successful, the prototype can provide safe water to thousands of people. The filter will first be introduced to Kasungu District, Malawi, in southeast Africa, where the limited amount of water available from deep boreholes or shallow wells is grossly contaminated by fecal material from humans and wild animals.

To alleviate the problem, many organizations have developed filters and introduced them to the region, but existing technologies have drawbacks that prevent them from being sustainable solutions. The Biosand filter is one of the best available options. However, it is made with concrete and requires a certain level of expertise to construct. It costs about $100, and weighs more than 300 lbs! A more affordable, versatile, locally sustainable solution is desperately needed.

How does our filter improve upon existing ones? 

Our prototype improves upon the Biosand filter, reduces its size to a bucket, and enhances its performance with a tiny amount of colloidal silver. The bucket sand filter removes dirt and some bacteria from water, and colloidal silver safely and powerfully completes disinfection.  There are many advantages of the improved filter.
  • Affordable. The filter costs less than $8, which we have determined families with an annual income under $200 can afford.
  •  Effective. It can remove bacteria to a safe level, and can treat many water conditions, including cloudy and highly contaminated water.
  • Locally sustainable. It can stimulate community involvement and create local businesses. The filter uses mostly locally available resources (sand, gravel, ceramics). Safe Water International will utilize its experience and network to create a supply chain for materials that are not readily available, such as plastic tubes, spigots, and colloidal silver.
  • Easy-to-use and maintain. It is versatile with the flexibility to be scaled up or down.

Where will your contributions go? Your contributions will help me buy supplies and rent equipment for lab testing. While my preliminary lab testing at the University of California, Santa Barbara showed great promise at filtering and disinfecting dirty water, more experiments are needed to fine tune the prototype and how best to use it. I also wish to study its effectiveness at removing viruses. In Malawi, your donations will also provide supplies to evaluate the filter’s efficiency with local water sources, while our collaborators in Mzuzu University can provide human resources and equipment. After on-site evaluation, Safe Water International will distribute filters to the families in need.

Together, we are taking the important first step towards making a big difference in many people’s lives. If the filter proves successful in Malawi, it will be introduced to other countries in need and save thousands more lives. Thanks in advance for your support.

By Ning Jiang who is 2nd-year PhD student from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Projects

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