Sunday, January 17, 2010

Aqua Clara

Last weekend Shawn and I traveled to good old Holland, Michigan to learn how to build biosand water purifiers with Aqua Clara International


Well, I'm glad you asked.  Aqua Clara is an organization created to give away water purifier technology in the developing world.  The purifiers are designed in such a way that they are built out of locally acquired materials.  Aqua Clara also sends teams to train locals in how to build the filters on their own and how to set up a unique business and training model that will work best for the local community.  In short, it is ultra sustainable and helps empower locals to take control of their sanitation issue.  I could talk about this for hours though.  I absolutely love the way the organization is structured!

The filters are quite simple.  Just plastic drums with some PVC pipe, a few layers of sand, and a brass disinfectant.  The way the filter works is that the water someone puts in today, she drinks tomorrow.  During that standing time, the bacteria and parasites in the water become food for each other and utilize all of the oxygen in the filter.  After that takes place, the water is clean once it comes out the spout.  There's a lot of biology going on in there that I can't claim to completely understand.  I think the most impressive part of the technology is the man who created it is a retired physicist from Dow and taught himself all of the biology and chemistry he needed to know.  He then patened the technology so he could give it away.

Anyway, I digress.  Here are some photos of the purifier building process.

First you measure and drill a hole in the front of the plastic drum for the out-spout.  Our team opted to use the hand drill.  Mostly because the power drills were all in use.  However, if (when) we travel overseas to train communities how to build these, a hand drill will be the only thing that is available.

Now we measured and cut the PVC pipe to fit our drum's dimensions.  There is actually quite a bit of exactness that is required to making sure the PVC fits properly and where the out-spout should be located.

Next, our leaders demonstrated how to drill the holes in the PVC pipe using a hand drill they brought back from Kenya.  Again, in the US we would simply use a power drill, however, that is not available in most locations overseas due to lack of electricity.

 Our teammates drilling the holes in the intake pipe for our filter.

And there you have it!  Our filter.  The men who were teamed with Shawn and me were actually learning to build these filters in hopes to travel to Haiti.  After the earthquake, it seems that these purifiers are needed now more than ever.

Each purifier is affixed with a sticker that states when the filter was built and who the owner can contact to ask questions about maintenance, etc.  This is typically a local expert who has been trained by an Aqua Clara team in how these filters need to be constructed and maintained.  It typically is not an American.  I think that's pretty awesome.

Now add the sand.  At this point our leaders simply filled their purifier.  It would have been a lot of unnecessary sand for all 10 teams to built complete purifiers.

Now adding the water to the purifier.

It works!

As I am sure you can tell from this post, I'm pretty excited about what Aqua Clara is doing around the world.  Clean water is one of the most needed things in the developing world.  Drinking unsafe water leads to numerous unnecessary and preventable illnesses that contribute to the extreme poverty in many areas of the world.  Think about it- how well do you work, learn, or parent when you are feeling ill?  Imagine that for every day of your life and the water you drink is causing it.  Honestly, it completely breaks my heart.


Sunshine said...

Hi Nichole, that's a grand idea to purify water. I've once seen a documentary where water was purified simply by setting it in plastic bottles in the sunshine for up to 24 hrs. It has to be the right plastic (PET or something like that), but the UV will kill 99% of microorganisms! It's that simple...

Anyway, I'm also commenting to let you know that you're one of my nominees for the Lemonade Stand Award; come check out what it’s all about on my blog!


Heidi said...

I love this post! We take our clean water for granted.

Leslie said...

this is amazing. it is cool to read your excitement in this post. haiti definitely needs these now.

Karl Jansen said...

This is really cool. I was actually thinking about Aqua Clara the other day since the water crisis in Haiti has been magnified significantly since the earthquake. I remember a few months ago you told me about it. Maybe someday I can get trained too and implement it on my trips to Haiti!

Rebekah said...

what a great cause! Thanks for posting the details for making a purifier

ali said...

i love hearing your excitement about this nichole! this is such a wonderful and important effort. i pray you and shawn will be able to go out into the world to help implement these... in kenya perhaps?! :)