Household Water Filter Program
Improving the health and capacity of families through clean water, personal sanitation and community hygiene education.
In Cambodia, nearly half of the population does not have access to safe water and basic personal sanitation facilities. This has dramatic health and financial consequences for rural families living near or below the poverty line. The second leading cause of death for children under 5 in Cambodia is diarrhea. Family health problems are the number one reason rural families are forced to sell their land.
People living in rural areas of Cambodia often lack access to clean, safe drinking water. Even families with access to wells, often find that drinking water straight from the well will make them sick and give them skin rashes due to bacteria, parasites and agricultural compounds in the water. These families also frequently lack a knowledge of the basic principles of personal sanitation and hygiene as well as best practices for food and clean water storage.
For rural families, access to clean water, adequate sanitation facilities and hygiene education can mean the difference between healthy, happy lives and lives burdened by disease and poverty.
Clear Cambodia uses BioSand filter technology to bring clean water to families in these rural communities. We also assist communities in building latrines for the poorest families to create a safe and clean environment for personal sanitation.
These efforts, in tandem with health and hygiene training, improve the health and lives of rural Cambodians. Over time these families are able to make significant economic and financial gains thanks to added physical capacity and money saved from reduced medical bills and water purchases.
Families invest $5 to receive a BioSand filter unit. They also participate in our community training program that covers filter maintenance, personal hygiene, and food storage safety.
The household water filter program includes 3 main components:
BioSand Filters Installed
Community Members Trained
Home BioSand Filter System
The home BioSand filter system is a low cost, ultra durable, locally sourced clean water solution. Each BioSand filter is constructed in the community where it will be used, and is capable of producing up to 700 liters of clean water every day. The sand and gravel filter medium is sourced locally in the Kampong Speu province of Cambodia.
Home BioSand Filter Construction Process
Our home BioSand filters are constructed in the villages where they will be used, by the families that will recieve them. Clear Cambodia provides the materials and one of our staff members supervises the construction process.
The process starts with our steel filter moulds, where we insert the PVC pipe that carries the clean water from the bottom of the filter case to the outlet on the front of the filter.
Next concrete is mixed by hand and poured into the moulds.
After the moulds are filled with concrete the concrete is mixed with a special tool to remove air pockets and ensure a smooth finish. The filter boxes are allowed to dry for 7 days and are then transported by the families to their homes ready to be installed by Clear Cambodia staff.
Home BioSand Filter installation Process
Each family is responsible for transporting the BioSand filter unit from the construction site to their home. Then the filter unit is installed by one of our trained staff and tested to ensure that it is functioning properly.
Our staff start by leveling the filter and making sure that it is resting on a solid base that will not shift and destabilize over time.
Once the filter is in position and level, the first layer of course gravel is added to the filter. This layer allows the water to easily flow into the output tube, and prevents sand from entering the outflow tube and restricting the flow of clean filtered water.
Next the coarse gravel is leveled and water is added to help the BioSand medium settle properly into the filter body.
The BioSand material is then added to the filter and water is added until the water covers the sand.
At this point chlorine is added through the output spout to disinfect the filter and prepare it for use.
Finally the BioSand material is compressed until a flow rate of between 400 and 600 ml per minute is achieved.
Before the family can begin to drink the water they need to run 15 of the blue containers of water (see photo above) through the filter to clear out the chlorine and any other contaminants left over from the installation process.
Home BioSand Filter Inspection Process
Clear Cambodia staff follow up with each filter recipient at 1 month, 4 months, 10 months and 12 months after the filter is installed.
Families that receive filters get their water from many different sources. Some are still using open pit wells (like the family below) while others are using more modern bore wells. In both cases the water is most often unsafe to drink due to the bacteria and other contaminants filtering down into the ground water.
During each visit Clear Cambodia staff members interview the family about their use of the filter, their hygiene practices and incidences of illness since the staffs last visit.
Clear Cambodia staff also check the flow rate of the BioSand filter and make adjustments to the density of the filter medium as needed. They also refresh the family’s knowledge of proper filter maintenance and personal hygiene and sanitation practices.
Each of our follow-up staff has the goal to hold follow-up meetings with 10 families per day. This number can be higher or lower depending on the population density of the villages we are working in.
The $5 investments from families investing in BioSand filter are pooled together and the funds are used to build latrines for the neediest families in the community. Latrines provide a private, sanitary location and help reduce open defecation.
Reducing the amount of open defecation in the community leads to a cleaner local environment and dramatically reduces the incidence of bacterial illness and parasitic infection in community members.
Community Health and Hygiene Education
Our community health program focuses on the basics of personal sanitation and hygiene that will have the most impact on the health of community members going forward.
Our community education curriculum includes:
- BioSand filter use, care and maintenance
- The importance of handwashing and use of soap during handwashing
- The need for, and proper use of, hygienic latrines for personal sanitation
Benefits to the Community
- Families are sick less often
- Increased energy and working capacity
- Less time spent boiling water
- Parents are able to hold a job better
- Work is more productive due to increased health and stamina
- Increased financial independence
- Increased knowledge of health
- Food tastes better with clean water so restaurants are buying BioSand filters
- Latrines are becoming a status symbol
Household Water Filter Program Process (How we work in communities)
Our work in a community begins when the district governor or provincial governor contacts us and requests that we provide assistance to their communities. Once communities are selected we meet with local government officials at the commune and village level to educate them about the benefits of BioSand filters and our hygiene and sanitation community education program.
Village leaders are then responsible to set up a committee to promote the program by contacting households in their communities and educating them on the benefits of the program. Families who want to participate must then formally register with the local village office. Once the list of families choosing to invest is complete, filter construction is scheduled for the village and materials are purchased from local suppliers.
Each household that wants to participate in the program must financially invest in the process by contributing $5. In addition to their financial contribution each family must make a significant time contribution to the project in the form of labor to help construct the filter boxes and to transport the filters to their homes around the village. Families must also attend community education events focused on healthy hygiene habits and personal sanitation practices.
The home filter program has been structured this way to maximize the level to which the community is invested in making a sustainable change. We have found that families and communities that participate in these programs make significant progress toward healthy living when they have invested their time and resources to receive the benefits of the program.
Change and growth related to health in these communities is often quick and decisive. There is a stigma attached to sickness and poverty. Changes in hygiene habits and access to clean water give families trapped in the sickness and poverty cycle a opportunity to help themselves.
Better health leads to better educational and economic opportunities. Health changes can be see soon after installation of the filters and completion of the hygiene classes. Economic changes often occur more slowly over a period of years. Consistent good health within a family allows them to save money slowly and invest it. Families are able to increase the size of their rice fields, begin to grow chickens, dig a pond to raise fish, or open a small store to sell items to their neighbors. Each small increase in capacity leads to more money saved and investment in future earning potential.
Increased economic prosperity also allows families to send their children to school, and later to university. A university education dramatically changes the income potential for an individual and their family.