Students Build Water Filtration System In 48 Hours Using Clay & Sawdust

How long does it take to build a typical drinking water treatment plant? Months? A year? Not to mention the high cost and potential environmental impact of the construction and subsequent chemical processing. It’s no wonder that so many developing countries are still without reliable access to clean drinking water…the prospect of doing things the “Western” way is just out of the question.

What these nations need are simple answers that can be implemented immediately, without high cost or the need for massive engineering operations. Answers like the affordable ceramic water filtration system recently developed by two students from Penn State University. Based on a design by the non-profit organization Potters for Peace, the system can be built in just two days for a mere $200 in environmentally-friendly materials.

Penn State, water filtration system, ceramics, Kenya, Africa

Images via Penn State Video

Lack of sanitary drinking water leads to death and serious illness for thousands of people in the developing world each year. Many of the sick or deceased are children. Motivated to help solve this problem, students Kory Hansen and Jin Ju Kim participated in Penn State’s Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship (HESE) program to develop a cheap solution that could be easily deployed in Kenya.

“The filter itself, made of clay and sawdust, eliminates 80 percent of the bacteria and pathogens. When it is coated in silver, it reacts and makes it 99 percent effective. However, silver is probably the only thing not local, and it had to be imported from India or China,” said Hansen.

The students discovered that even using such simple ingredients, it was still a challenge to build the filtration system themselves on location in Kenya. Simple supplies that would have taken five minutes to find in a U.S. hardware store required hours of searching and negotiating with local suppliers. Still, the finished product was well worth the effort, and now residents of Nyeri, Kenya know the pleasure of safe drinking water available just steps from their door.

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog