Ceramic Water Filter Project

filterEvery year 1.7 million people, mainly children under the age of five, die from diarrhea which is caused by unsafe water. The objective of the Potters for Peace Water Filter Project is to make safe drinking water available by helping set up workshops that will produce ceramic water filters made from local materials. These filters are low-tech and low-cost and eliminate approximately 99.88% of water-born disease agents.

Since 1998, Potters for Peace has been assisting in the production of a low-tech, low-cost, colloidal silver-enhanced ceramic water purifier (CWP) throughout the world and ceramic water purifiers based on the Potters for Peace technology package are now produced at over 50 independent factories in over 30 countries. These filters are the highest-rated product for rural point-of-use water treatment (Smart Disinfection Solutions, 2010).

Here is a short video that explains how the filters work and gives some history:

Potters for Peace does not operate filter-making facilities or sell filters but we train others to do so, and the filter factories that we assist are run as independent businesses owned by organizations or individuals. Potters for Peace receives no financial benefit from the filter producers but PFP filter technicians have their expenses paid and may receive a stipend while working on a new facility.

The Need is Great

The UN’s Millennium Development Goal is to halve, by the year 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water. The objective of the CWP project is to meet this urgent demand for safe water in rural and marginalized communities by providing technology that can easily be copied by local workshops.

What is Ceramic Water Purifier (CWP)?

Bruno Sanga explains the manufacturing process.

Bruno Sanga explains the manufacturing process.

A ceramic water filter is a simple, bucket-shaped (11” wide by 10” deep) clay vessel that is made from a mix (by weight) of local terra-cotta clay and sawdust or other combustibles, such as rice husks. The filters are formed by using a press.

The simplest press utilizes a hand-operated hydraulic truck jack and two-piece aluminum mold. Filters are fired to about 860 deg. C. and the milled, screened combustible material burns out, leaving porous clay walls. The filters are tested to make sure they meet a standard rate of filtration and then they are coated with colloidal silver. The combination of fine pore size and the bactericidal properties of colloidal silver produce an effective filter.

When in use, the fired and treated filter is placed in a five-gallon plastic or ceramic receptacle with a lid and faucet. Water passes through the clay filter element at the rate of 1.5 to 2.5 liters per hour.

Pricing for ready-to-use filter units, including the receptacle, is determined by local production costs and is usually between $15 to $25. Replacement clay filters will cost $4 to $6. A basic production facility with three or four workers can produce about fifty filters a day.

History

The filter design used by PFP was developed in 1981 by Dr. Fernando Mazariegos of the Central American Industrial Research Institute (ICAITI) in Guatemala. The goal was to make bacterially contaminated water safe for the poorest of the poor by developing a low-cost filter that could be fabricated at the community level.

In 1994, the Family Foundation of the Americas (AFA), a Guatemalan organization, became interested in the ceramic water filter when it was found that other strategies were not yielding effective results. Chlorine tablets in rural communities were not well accepted and health complications associated with chlorine misuse caused additional concern. Boiled water wasn’t effective when households failed to boil water long enough to purify it. AFA carried out a one-year follow-up study on the initial Mazariegos-led filter project, and concluded that including this filter in rural health education efforts reduced the incidence of diarrhea in participating households by as much as 50 percent.

In October 1998, Hurricane Mitch tore through Central America. It was one of the most destructive hurricanes ever recorded, and it affected millions of people. Safe water was urgently needed as supply systems (already of borderline capacity and efficiency) had been badly damaged. This prompted Potters for Peace to use the Mazariegos design to begin a Ceramic Water Filter production workshop in Nicaragua.
In the first six months over 5000 filters were distributed through non-governmental organizations. The workshop, called Filtron, evolved into a worker-owned cooperative and is now incorporated as a privately-owned business.

SilverApplication

Applying colloidial silver to a fired filter.

Potters for Peace has since provided consultation and training to set up production facilities in Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Ghana, El Salvador, the Darfur region of Sudan, Kenya, Benin, Yemen, Nigeria, Tanzania, Peru, Somaliland and other countries.

The CWP has been cited by the United Nations’ Appropriate Technology Handbook, and hundreds of thousands of filters have been distributed worldwide by organizations such as the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, Doctors Without Borders, UNICEF, Plan International, Project Concern International, Oxfam and USAID. We have also financed or assisted in laboratory testing and field studies of the filter with various institutions, among them MIT, Tulane University, University of Colorado and University of North Carolina. Potters for Peace is a member of the World Health Organization’s International Network to Promote Household Water Treatment and Safe Storage.

Partnering with PFP

Organizations interested in initiating a filter project should contact PFP to begin the conversation. If PFP finds that an organization can demonstrate its ability to meet PFP’s project guidelines, a PFP technician will be assigned to the project and will assist with setting up the factory and training local workers. An on-site visit of at least four weeks is necessary and the cost of start-up varies according to what resources are needed. An integral part of PFP’s filter technology is a fuel-efficient kiln.

A functioning CWP facility becomes part of an ongoing intra-organizational filter dialogue, staying abreast of all related research and developments through email and follow-up visits. PFP-sponsored filter projects are designed to provide profitable and sustainable employment and the local retail price of a CWP is set so as to maintain its accessibility to the poor while providing a decent wage for the workers.

Education, health training and follow-up are critical to the successful introduction of the CWP into rural communities. Potters for Peace has developed brochures, decals and a manual of procedures in several languages.

The Potters for Peace Approach

The Potters for Peace ceramic filter technology is a process involving machinery and substantial infrastructure. With years of experience we have found this is the only way to produce filters of consistent quality. We are often approached by potential partners who are looking for an artisan approach to filter making, i.e. a simple hand formed filter, fired without a proper kiln. This is not what we are offering, as far as we know such a thing does not exist and functional ceramic water filters cannot be produced in this manner. Before contacting Potters for Peace please read through some of the documents in theGetting Started sub-page so as to have a clear idea about our technology.

Water Treatment Options

PFP’s CWP is one of several currently accepted low-tech, inexpensive, point-of-use water purifying options. Each has strong and weak points and ideally a community should choose what is appropriate for its own situation.

Open Source

In an effort to share and develop CWP technology on a global scale, PFP’s ongoing development of the CWP uses the Open Source Manufacturing model. We do not hold a patent on the CWP and the technology is available to anyone. It is hoped that all parties will share findings from research and development with PFP and the wider community in an effort to expedite the availability of the CWP to those in need. The technology recommended by PFP continues to be subjected to extensive testing and all potential projects must meet guidelines established by PFP. Potters for Peace assumes no responsibility for CWP projects undertaken without the approval of the PFP Board of Directors and Filter Committee.

Studies

The ceramic water filter technology has been and continues to be extensively tested. On the “Research” sub-page there is a document compiled by Barbara Donachy which serves as a quick reference, summary and review of more than 70 of these studies.

More Information

For more information visit the sub-pages under “Water Filter Project.” Please look there first and then contact Kaira Wagoner..

21 Comments

  1. Anonymous on

    is there anything that the ceramic could be replaced with? because ceramic would be too easy to break to transfer from the United State into Panama.

  2. Melinda Levokove on

    Your water filters seem to be a useful tool! Has anyone considered using them in Flint, Michigan, where the local water has been contaminated? Also, in other places in the U.S. where toxins have polluted the local water sources?
    I’m wondering what could be done and if the ceramic filters can help to address the water requirements for the American communities in need…

  3. Amythest Warrington on

    Do these filters remove things like lead and other contaminants that places like Flint Michigan are experiencing? If they do has anyone started a project in the area?

  4. hi, am tonny from Kampala,uganda am trying to investigate the use of a biosand filter without any post disinfection and one which is incorporated with silver ceramics, can i get the product available in Uganda? this Will help me find the most effectiveness method to help rural community.thank

  5. Hello there!

    Do you have any manufacturing facilities in Ghana? If not, what is the cost involved in setting up a water filtration pot factory and in training locals to sustain it?

    Thanks very much!

  6. Godfrey Kayesi on

    Am based in Narok County in kenya,trying to set up ceramic cooking stove & flower pots project.kindly how can i be incorporated to start production of water filters considering that narok is one place that has a big problem to safe clean drinking water.

    • Kaira Wagoner on

      Greetings Godfrey,
      Thank you for your comment and interest in the ceramic water filter. I would be happy to discuss our process for the initiation of filter produciton with you and will follow up with an email from pottersforpeace@gmail.com. I look forward to learning more about your work in Narok County!
      All the best,
      Kaira

  7. Peter Swanson on

    We want to buy these filters near San Pedro Sula. Do you have a recommendation? Our organization is called Honduras Hope.

    • Kaira Wagoner on

      Greetings Peter,
      Thank you for your interest in the ceramic water filter. The contact information I have for the producer in Honduras is: Maximo Andreus, aguadebarro@yahoo.es. If you have any trouble getting in touch with him feel free to email me at pottersforpeace@gmail.com for more assistance. You may also consider contacting other nearby producers. The contact information for filter factories can be found on this map on the Potters for Peace website: http://pottersforpeace.com/filter-map/. To see the contact information click on the “view on a larger map” link at the bottom and then click the country of interest. Thanks and all the best,
      Kaira

    • Kaira Wagoner on

      Greetings and thank you for your comment. Several organizations in India have expressed interest in the production of ceramic filters, however it is my understanding that funding has not been secured for such a project. If you are interested in getting in touch with the groups in India that have expressed interest in filter production, please send me an email at pottersforpeace@gmail.com and I will happily connect you.
      Thanks and best,
      Kaira

    • Karan Kothari on

      Hello!
      I deeply appreciate this project.Considering India which is dealing with problem of Clean Water Source i find it important to start it here.
      I am interested in Manufacturing and distributing it.
      You could connect me at +919028974984

  8. Hi, My name is Saskia and I am looking at getting a water filter put into a school in Nairobi, Kenya. I am interested in the Ceramic filters because they are inexpensive and relatively easy to sustain and maintain. I am hoping to find out whether or not a ceramic filter would be able to fit the needs of a school with over 250 children. We intend to have an 8000 Litre water tank put in and are hoping to hook the filter up to the tank. Every ceramic filter I have read about can only process up to 3 litres an hour, which is not enough for a school of this capacity. Does Potters for Peace manufacture larger filters or do you know if it possible to get one that has a higher capacity filtration rate?
    Thank you for your work.
    ~Saskia

    • Hi Saskia,
      Thank you for your comment. Ceramic filters can certainly be used in schools. For use by a large number of people you will simply need to purchase several water filters. These can be placed side by side as individual units, or placed together in a larger receptacle (picture a large barrel with three holes in the top, a filter suspended from each hole). If you send me an email at pottersforpeace@gmail.com I would be happy to send you some photographs as examples. Keeping filters full will also increase the pressure and thus the flow rate – If you are interested I can give you some ideas for how to do that without much hassle. For more information or to purchase filters in Kenya, please contact Wanja Mburu at the Limuru factory at: chujioceramics@gmail.com.
      Thank you for your interest, and please let me know if there is anything else I can do to be of assistance!
      All the best,
      Kaira

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