Fall 2014 News

UNC Chapell Hill, October 2014
Ceramic technician Burt Cohen will be presenting at the University of Chapel Hill conference on Water and Health.

The Ceramic Pot Filter side session is scheduled for Friday, Oct 17, 8:30am – 12:00pm. The purpose of the side session is to bring together those involved in ceramic pot filter manufacturing, marketing, dissemination and research in order to share successes and challenges over the past year and discuss future directions.

Filter Setter
We are currently forming a second prototype filter setter. The filter setter is used for stacking the filters together inside the kiln in a dense configuration. The setter not only nests the filters closely together, but should distribute the weight of the filters onto the support, rather than onto each other. A denser kiln stacking will allow more efficient use of space, reduce fuel costs, and improve the productivity of existing kilns. We hope that this setter will be able to be formed on the filter press.

Prototype mold Set
UK donor, Howells Llc. has produced an ovoid mold set of cast aluminum. This prototype set has a flat bottom but rounded sides, and incorporates several other small changes to the filter form. We hope that this prototype will improve strength and flow rate capabilities of the filter without requiring special drying and handling practices. Several rounds of experiments will be preformed before the mold set reaches the field-testing stage.

Prototype Press
Howells Llc. has also manufactured a prototype press which incorporates some potential advancements. Specifically, the press uses a flipping action for ejection, and is designed to be adaptable to manual, electric, or pneumatic hydraulic pistons for automation. It is hoped that this ejection method will lead to a method of ejection which will not require plastic bags, however, none of the experimental mold-release agents have yielded successful results so far.

Guinea Bissau
Although parts of West Africa have been heavily affected by the Ebola virus, our partners in Bissau are now in advanced stages of building the factory enclosure. We hope to begin batch tests and establish production in 2015. This project continues to benefit from area specific fund raising efforts including generous donations by the Canadian charity “Active Compassion” which helped pay for the first pound of colloidal silver. That’s enough silver for over 3300 filters.

Hydration for Health from an Early Age – How Ceramic Water Filters Can Help

Hydration for Health from an Early Age

Water is one of the most essential nutrients for health, and yet many developing countries still have vast numbers of the population who do not have access to fresh clean drinking water. Water that is contaminated by bacteria can become, rather than a lifesaving ingredient, a cause of disease and even death. Although there are various initiatives around the world designed at promoting the availability of clean water, such as ceramic water filters, the problem remains in many communities and ongoing support for these initiatives is vital. Lack of clean water and the ensuing dehydration can lead to chronic health conditions; having only enough water to save from complete dehydration will keep a person alive, but the quality of that life will be severely reduced. If the water available is unclean, the exposure to health risks is even greater. The effects are particularly potent in young children, severely impacting on their development.

Dehydration in Infants and Children

Children become dehydrated more quickly than adults due to their higher bodily percentage of water and a lesser ability to regulate body temperature, as well as immature kidneys and body processes. In young children with an undeveloped immune system the potential of succumbing to infections from drinking dirty water is higher, and the infant mortality rate for infants living in areas where the water supply is unclean is very high. Babies are at particular risk; although breastfeeding is generally considered to be the best diet for infants up to six months, this guideline generally applies to breastfeeding mothers who are themselves healthy. Where the mother is dehydrated herself and drinking contaminated water the benefits of breastfeeding are significantly reduced, with a severely dehydrated mother unable to produce breast milk. The only other option is to make up infant formula milk – where there is access to it - with contaminated water. Although infants and very young children are at a higher risk of death, children of all ages require clean water and proper hydration for optimal development.

Effects of Dehydration on Development

Even moderate dehydration has been shown to cause exhaustion and lethargy, lower the immune system and even impair cognitive function, which then impacts on learning and skills development. Chronic dehydration over time can lead to digestive problems, rheumatism, anemia, growth impairment and even premature aging in children. Drinking dirty water only makes the problem twofold, as the bacteria present often cause diarrhea, which has an incredibly dehydrating effect on the body, and at it’s worst can kill. The sufferer will feel painfully thirsty, yet the only water available will cause further diarrhea and dehydration in a vicious circle. Continued drinking of unclean water can cause fatal disease, with thousands of children every year dying from drinking dirty water. Overcrowded cities without toilets and running water are particular danger spots. A clean fresh water supply and proper hydration for children is crucial. WaterAid has previously described these issues as one of the biggest problems in world health today.

How Ceramic Water Filters Can Help

Inexpensive and effective, ceramic water filters rely on the small pore size of the ceramic to filter out harmful bacteria. In developing countries, this technology is utilized with clay pot filters that can be made and used easily and are a strong safeguard against harmful bacteria contaminating drinking water, although they are believed to be less effective against viruses. The making of clay pot filters can also be a sustainable business for developing countries, helping to minimize poverty for some families and communities and as they are culturally acceptable there are few barriers to their use. By keeping out the majority of bacteria and other pathogens the pots enable drinking water to be cleaned and filtered effectively. Clean drinking water of course means less dehydration, impacting on the development of third world children. Although an often overlooked factor in dietary recommendations for children water intake is in fact a vital and integral part of optimal nutrition. Hydration is an important factor in nutritional development and may be particularly important in the diet of children from developing countries whose nutritional intake is likely to be poor in other areas.

Although the problem of contaminated water supply also needs to be tackled by raising awareness and helping countries and people implement proper sanitation and access to fresh water, ceramic filters are an excellent way to help struggling families quickly and effectively, ensuring the water they give their children is as clean as possible.

Guest Writer: Lisa Major

Firing Temperature and Shrink Tests

CWF Clay Test
Test tiles 2cmx10cmx0.5cm



The first round of tiles for the filter clay temperature and shrinkage tests. Over 60 tiles to test at 925 950, 975, and 1000 degrees Celsius. We were sent between 250 and 500 grams of each sample, which turned out to be a little small. It took 100grams to make 4 tiles 2cmx10cmx5mm thick. and each time the particle analysis test was preformed we used 100grams as well. The particle analysis test takes 24hours to complete, and the firings about 6 hours, not to mention the prep and wait times. Our scale turned out to be giving bad readings so it threw off a lot of the data we collected. now we begin again.

2012 Year End Activity Report

Field Work:

UNICEF Feasibility StudyBurt Cohen was sent to East Africa to study the feasibility of developing additional ceramic water filter production in Kenya. Burt visited the Turkana and Garissa regions and uncovered valuable information for future water filter projects in the area. We have partnered with UNICEF and other NGO’s in the region to expand production of CWF, such as the Rwanda factory established in 2005. At the moment we are waiting for funding and human resources to become available from these partners to continue this work.
German Red Cross/Red Cresent – SomalilandBurt Cohen and Kai Morrill traveled to Somaliland to work at the Biyo Miire CWF factory in Hargeisa, run by the Somaliland Red Crescent Society. During their short stay they were able to troubleshoot several issues, and expand production significantly. The key component in this visit was the construction of an improved propane kiln which fires over 100 filters at a time. Burt will be returning to the factory this spring to do safety evaluations, review production and see if we can assist the factory in making further advances. Read more about this at: (http://tinyurl.com/cgltk9g)
Healdsburg Community Church – Guinea BissauKai Morrill traveled to Guinea Bissau in November to undertake a feasibility study. He reports that the hosting Christian organization “Central Social”, was very welcoming and Kai was impressed with their administrative capabilities. Guinea Bissau has been suffering from political instability and lack of public sanitation infrastructure. The country has an extremely young population with slow economic development, the majority of the population suffers from water borne disease, avoidable by the use of ceramic pot filtration. If funds are located to develop the proposed factory, thousands of lives could be saved, and the world will be a better place. To donate to this project, or any other PWB endeavor, you can do so through our website, you may add specific details in the comment box. (http://www.potterswithoutborders.com/donate/)

“BISSAU, 31 March 2009 (IRIN) – With 80 percent of the Guinea Bissau capital’s water contaminated with harmful bacteria, residents are used to outbreaks of cholera and other deadly diarrheal diseases, but donors say they can fund major infrastructure projects only if stability can be guaranteed.” UN Humanitarian News.

Research and Development:

Factory MappingEarlier this year we began an effort to collect the contact information of all the factories we communicate with and this information has now been added to a single Google map, making contact with regional factories much easier. International buyers and others interested in the technology are now able to locate and connect with factories in their areas. It will also facilitate the development of safety standards for ceramic water filters. (http://goo.gl/maps/5d3CA)
Particle AnalysisRaw clays used in filter-making are dug from natural sources. The location for digging is chosen based on its regular consistency and the volume of supply; having a steady supply of clay available for factories’ production and expansion is very important to the long term success of the factory. There is a certain amount of variability in all natural clay sources; from week to week, the clay can vary significantly as the collection location moves along the vein. In order to maintain consistency, two or more clays of different qualities are often blended together. Clay bodies of variable particle distribution can be blended in appropriate proportions so that a more homogeneous mixture can be maintained.

This summer we published a set of protocols to establish a standard method for classifying clays for filter manufacturing. This procedure uses a standardized hydrometer to measure clay particle distribution as batches enter the factory and adjust the mixtures accordingly. For more information, and to download a copy of the protocols look here: (http://tinyurl.com/bpqy8kx)

The “Kosim Water Keg”Beginning in 2011 PWB has been helping researchers from MIT and Pure Home Water in Ghana to develop an improved ceramic filter unit which uses negative pressure to increase flow rates. We produced several prototype models that were shipped to American researchers who assembled and tested them. You can follow their results at: (http://tinyurl.com/c72w3le)

On The Road:

NCECAIn March, we sent Burt Cohen and Kai Morrill to the conference of the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) in Seattle. This is a large conference and trade show of industry, university, and ceramic arts professionals which meets once a year to hold workshops, demonstrations, and exhibitions. We shared a table with our colleagues from Potters For Peace and held meetings with several ceramic filter consultants. We also raised money for projects, spoke about our work, and signed up new members. (http://nceca.net/static/conference_home.php)


Howells UKThrough a partnership with Howells Railway Products, LLC. in Manchester, UK we were able to begin distribution of press and mold sets to Ethiopia, Somaliland, and Cameroon. The quality of the equipment is much improved from units manufactured in the field. Unfortunately, due to the challenges of moving equipment across multiple national borders, the implementation has been slower than hoped. We are actively working with local partner NGOs to get the molds into place and ready for production.
CameroonAn agreement has been reached with the African Center for Renewable Energy & Sustainable Technology (ACREST) to begin preliminary project development in Cameroon. ACREST is looking for stable funding partners to develop a factory as soon as is viable. The organization currently operates a factory which produces improved cook-stoves. This facility is an ideal candidate to diversify into CWF production because the materials and processes are similar. It is estimated that about $20,000 is required to initiate the new enterprise. Towards this end, a press and set of molds are already on the way from Europe.


Thanks very much to Beth Campbell of Ontario for fostering the work of Potters Without Borders. Beth spoke with communities about the organizations work.

Thanks to all those who attended the fundraiser at O’Keefe Ranch last summer, your assistance has helped expand projects that continue to bring filter technology to desperate areas.

Congratulations to Juliette Arabi of Hogar De Christo in Ecuador for beginning filter production at the Guyaquil filter factory!

Thanks to Tia McLennan and John Hatten for assisting with the newsletters, your help is much appreciated.

Why become a member?

Joining PWB allows us all to have a disproportionate impact in the world compared to our small size. Communities served by the factories which we assist have no alternative methods of getting safe water. We want to keep putting donations towards project specific expenses, in order for this to happen we need the membership dues for operating the Registered Charity. Each year we pay for the Website, Accounting expenses, Postage, Insurance, and Printing costs. It is our dues that keep the “organization” running. By paying dues you provide the basic operational structure necessary, for advancing our mission of fostering the building of ceramic water filter factories. We have no paid administrators, the only way we can continue to be sustainable is with with your help.

We are recruiting directors and other volunteers

Do you have experience or skills applicable to this position? Know someone who does? Contact: kai@potterswithoutborders.com

In particular, we are looking for volunteers with a background in accounting, law, organizational development, grant writing, and, most of all, who have energy and passion for helping Potters Without Borders grow and succeed in our mission. (http://www.potterswithoutborders.com/join/)

What Makes an Efficient Ceramic Water Filter?

An important but brief study was published last year by individuals working with the RDIC factory in Cambodia to find what factors make a more efficient ceramic water filter. In this study several empirical tests were preformed to investigate the relationships between filter mix ratios and firing schedules. Perhaps the most relevant results demonstrated by these tests demonstrated the lack of correlation between flow rate and bacterial removal efficiency. In the test, filter discs ranging from 2 to 18 liters per hour showed similar e-coli removal efficacy.

This has long been suspected in the industry where standard flow rate best practices specify a 1.5 to 3 liter range of acceptability. These flow rates were set in an attempt to ensure that new factories making filters were producing effective ceramic water filters without the ability to effectively test their real ability to remove bacteria.

Other Tendencies of Efficient Ceramic Water Filters

  • Increasing burnout to clay ratio seems to increase flow rate while reducing strength
  • Firing to a higher temperature may increase flow rates, (it is assumed that firing higher increases pore size)
  • Increasing firing temperature may result in a stronger filter.
  • Firing higher seemed to reduce bacterial removal effectively, but the correlation was weak.
  • There is strong variation in flow rates of filters formed in wet or dry season.
  • Similar flow rates can be achieved by 1: Increasing burnout to clay ratio and reducing burnout particle size 2: Reducing burnout to clay ratio and increasing burnout particle size.

This study clearly presents an argument for further testing of these same variables to produce a more efficient ceramic water filter.

The onus is now on each factory to further develop their manufacturing practices. If the established best practices are to be modified on a case by case basis it should only be by careful experimentation and with the partnership of an independent monitoring agency to ensure that filters being produced meet minimum bacterial removal standards.

Although these results direct us towards a path of study that develops efficient ceramic water filters, any operation in the manufacturing process which relies on additional mechanical or technological resources also removes a layer of appropriateness to the ceramic water filter technology as a whole.

Imagine, for instance, that to make a more effective filter we find that burnout must be screened to finer tolerance. The factory in Somalia must then find a new reliable source a new mesh for their screening machines. The mesh they are currently using comes from out of the country and is very expensive and difficult to obtain. I argue that although the finer mesh would result in a more effective filter, if the basic standards were to change to reflect the greater efficiency it would reduce the appropriateness of the technology as a whole.

Development of a more effective filter is a part of factory scalability, once production of a basic filter has been stabilized a factory is ready to begin the process of improvements. These improvements will be determined by the local environment. After all, there are plenty of more effective filters on the market when cost, manufacturing limitations, and community adaptability are removed from the qualifications.

Studies such as these are important for us to better understand the path ahead with regard to improvement/changes to ceramic water filter production practices. That said, many of the studies assessing these practices are conducted in research facilities using laboratory methods. While this is a necessary first step, it must be followed by a replication of the results in a working filter factory. If this was a part of all academic research there would be a lot less ambiguity.

Link to original study:
Isabelle Gensburger – October 2011

Particle Size Distribution Analysis for Ceramic Pot Water filter production

Maria del Mar Duocastella and Kai Morrill

Potters Without Borders, Enderby, British Columbia, Canada – September 2012

Abstract: To develop a standard Particle Distribution Analysis testing protocol for use in Ceramic Pot Water Filter factories.

Introduction: Ceramic Pot Water filters are generally manufactured from sources of raw clay that vary in their consistency, some factories have begun using particle distribution analysis to qualify clay batches, as well as for blending multiple clay sources in order to maintain a more homogeneous clay body. In order to promote common testing methods between factories, we have begun herein to develop testing protocols that utilize widely available apparatus and materials. It is desirable to develop an effective test that is easily accessible to individuals with limited laboratory experience. This test must be able to be performed in extremely rudimentary conditions with limited resources while presenting reliably accurate results. We hope that by establishing stabilized testing standards specific to filter production the test data will be useful in comparing clay bodies between all participating filter factories. We find that difficulties in ensuring that identical lab equipment is used (cylinder dimensions) may make it difficult to accurately compare results across different factories. Several standards already exist for soil classification; particles can be classified into categories of Clay, Silt or Sand. These categories are demarcated recognizing that suspended particle size is in direct relationship to settling time. For our purposes, we established a baseline for classification by comparing other standards and examining the results of our tests.

Although it is useful for general comparisons to define the samples by the three categories (Sand, Silt, Clay), for the purposes of detailed clay sample comparison, it is better to collect data from various particle sizes, thus developing a curve of particle size distribution. For this reason we tested samples at 13 different time intervals: 30 seconds, 1 minute, 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours, 4 hours, 6 hours, 8 hours, and 24 hours. Having this expanded range of sample data allows us to compare samples in greater detail. These times were also chosen in order to complete the test within an 8 hour work day. *Note 1: Samples in Appendix 2 (Raw Data) which fall outside the standard testing procedure (Those prepared 24 or 48 hours before testing) were excluded from the final averages as there was significant variation in their results. It would have been interesting to use the results gathered to compare particle distribution results to burnout mixture ratios used in the participating factories. This proprietary information did not receive specific approval prior to publication.

Download (PDF, 1.21MB)

Creative Commons License
Particle Distribution Analysis for Ceramic Pot Water Filter Production by Potters Without Borders is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://potterswithoutborders.com/?p=3499.

The Importance of Local Investment – Ceramic Pot Water Filters

As filter technicians we are uniquely placed to have a broad perspective over filter development issues. We facilitate the information exchange which happens between the several entities involved in research, development, funding, training, manufacturing, marketing, and dissemination of Ceramic Pot Water Filters (CWFs). Each of these areas requires targeted efforts in order to develop a solid and sustainable implementation.

The goal of the CWF movement is to bring safe, reliable filters to the public in areas troubled by contaminated drinking water. These efforts are often spearheaded by philanthropic groups from wealthier regions concerned with administration of basic human needs. How these needs are administered is of great significance when determining if a project is viable in the short term, and economically sustainable in the long term.

Ceramic Pot Water Filter factories run by individuals with a strong vested interest in their success seem to have a better chance of survival than those based on a purely administrative relationship. As in any reasonable business model, the key lies in identifying personnel who will adopt their roles with some kind of personal investment in their accomplishment.

This is a good reason why partnering with an existing ceramics manufacturer may be in the best interests of requesting organizations. When factories are run as a private enterprise by local entrepreneurs they are often better equipped to meet the challenges of entering a new marketplace.

Organizations that already have experience with local enterprise may have the necessary skills and human resources to administer a project. In this case one must consider how this experience will apply specifically to manufacturing and distribution of ceramic products.

The Difficulty of Improving Simplicity – Ceramic Water Purifier

Rudimentary Ceramic Water Purifier (CWFs) were originally manufactured by hand with the same basic materials used in current models. These filters were hand formed from a mixture of minimally processed local clay combined with a burnout material such as pine sawdust or dung. Efforts by early CWF technicians Ron Rivera, and Fernando Mazariegos working with the Asociacion Guatemalteca para la Familia de las Americas (AFA) led to the development of a more consistent form by lining a metal pail with plastic and forming the filter on the inside surface.

During this time the large scale filter industry was already manufacturing micro-porus ceramic filters treated with colloidal silver. These filters used diatomaceous earth in place of sawdust, and were formed as “candle” type filters, small cylinders adopting plastic housing and mounting systems. Although this compact format resolved issues of transport, the complex assembly coupled with leakage problems made their local manufacture and adoption unreasonable.

As the basic qualities of an effective filter were being examined it was realized that in order for the filter to produce reliable results, issues regarding consistency of form would have to be addressed. Adaptable forms were already being produced in the low-fired ceramic flower pot industry. Mass produced terra cotta flower pots are being manufactured in India, China, and Italy using electric over hydraulic presses and aluminum molds. It was decided to re-produce these production methods in a more appropriate manner for localities with very basic infrastructure. The first CWF presses to utilize aluminum molds and hand operated hydraulic jacks were made in Central America.

As the technology continues to develop the primary challenge continues to be: how do we improve on the manufacturing process by making it more simple? Certainly industry is familiar with the challenge of producing a better product by adding layers of expensive and complex technology.The challenge in our case is to keep the manufacturing locally sourced and accessible to areas lacking basic utilities. To that end significant effort is being made towards improvements in basic equipment and manufacturing best practices. The greatest achievements in CWF technology will involve batch consistency and simple ways to improve the three primary objectives: Flow rate, Filter strength, and Bacterial removal efficiency.


Batch Consistency – Ceramic Pot Water Filters

At Potters Without Borders our focus is on the transfer of skills required to manufacture strong, effective ceramic pot water filters. Manufacturing filters as an appropriate technology requires the utilization of locally sourced skills and raw materials. For technicians, the main challenge is to go through the process required to develop a working filter body within a short time, using greatly variable materials. Although these materials may differ between factories, it is very important to maintain batch consistency when selecting materials for what is essentially a health product.

Establishing a reliable mixture of clay, burnouts, and accessory materials requires a period of testing and troubleshooting. Although working mixtures have been established in other factory locations, the information gained from these experiments only give us a general idea of where to start. It is not only necessary to begin factory production with a lengthy testing period, but every time a new batch of raw materials comes into the factory, testing must be done to make sure they are of consistent source and quality.

Developing a system of record-keeping and filter numbering is a critical aspect of manufacture troubleshooting. Factories that have been in production for years discover, suddenly, peculiar changes in filter functioning or appearance. By going back through the logs we can discover if the change occured because of a change of material sourcing, or a firing schedule fluctuation.

When selecting a source of raw materials, one must consider that it is a finite resource. A feasability study attempts to identify problems of inconsistant availablilty, contaminated sources, or insufficient material for the lifetime of the factory. The variable nature of naturally sourced materials makes it impossible to produce an identical product every time, but following certain procedures allows us to produce a greater number of filters which fall within the range of acceptability.

Production protocols which have been extablished in the first months of setup should be recorded and maintained. Any improvements, or changes to manufacturing procedures must be recorded and re-produced through several operating cycles in order to be proven.

Finally, we must realize that producing a homogenous filter is beyond the scope of appropriate technology as it applies to these filters. What we want is to produce an effective filter as simply as possible with locally sourced materials and abilities. Consistency in materials, sourcing, and testing increases the percentage of effective filters in each production cycle.

Funding existing factories – Ceramic Pot Water Filters

Organizations seeking to effect positive change in health due to water borne disease often consider Point Of Use (POU) treatment systems to be the most effective method to reach rural communities.

These organizations work locally, or internationally in various other aspects of assistance including health, education, and childrens aid. Once basic research into Ceramic Pot Water Filter (CWF) technology has been done administrators are faced with the decision of weather to start a completely new filter manufacturing enterprise, or invest in an existing project.

Small groups working in a specifically target area are first recommended to consider purchasing a batch of filters from the closest manufacturer available. This is both a reliable way to determine local interest in the product, and also a way to bolster sales for existing factories. Its possible that sustained purchase agreements can be the ultimate solution for both parties.

Another benefit of beginning with small scale importation of filters is that groups seeking investors in a social enterprise can represent this primary distribution as primary market research. Having working filters in-hand lends a great deal to presentations, giving participants a focus to questions of local applicability.

Larger organizations considering investment in CWF factories would do well to examine the impact of developing new enterprises vs. support to existing facilities. When studying the track record of factory start-ups one sees the trend of new factories acchieving target investments for preliminary production, only to meet the new struggle of sustainable production targets. Budgets for new factories rarely take into consideration the long term costs of developing a stable market.

Although the initial investment to begin production is important, the dollar for dollar cost of producing filters is lower when investing in an already producing facility. These new factories begin production with the simplest form of technology, and the most basic of filter designs to put on the market. With a secondary financial boost to upgrade factory production, or to develop more robust marketing plans, we could see a scaling-up of filter distribution.


Letter from the president 2012


Six years ago I and a small group of individuals founded a Non-Profit organization which has the primary goal of expanding access to clean drinking water around the world. We do this specifically by fostering the development of all aspects of ceramic pot water filter technology. Our organization collects and disseminates information and resources from technical consultants, academics, funding organizations, and filter producers.

          We have become well established in the international filter community as facilitators of filter manufacturing and development. Through our relationship with the US based charity Potters For Peace, and the creation of the Joint Ceramic Filter Committee, we have developed a broad network of contacts which continues to grow and, true to our goal, we are helping put more ceramic water filters in the hands of the people.

We built this organization knowing that financial aid and technical assistance must be appropriately administered. The organization itself is supported by membership dues and donations, and is run completely by volunteers. We distribute factory development information for free. Plans for equipment, procedures for testing, reference material, and international contacts are written and distributed with an open-source philosophy. Membership dues and donations are distributed wisely by the Potters Without Borders Board of Directors among several annual projects, mostly pertaining to transportation and equipment, and minimally on things like printing, and website hosting.

           When requested, Potters Without Borders connects development groups with paid technical consultants who travel overseas to do hands-on training, feasibility studies and factory building. These consultants all sit on the Joint Filter Committee and work together to provide comprehensive responses to these requests.

As we get ready for the Potters Without Borders annual general meeting, I thought I would take this chance to inform you of our activities. 2012 promises to be another active year for Ceramic Water Filter development.


International Factory Implementations:

In 2011, we participated in the implementation of a factory in Guayaquil, Ecuador, partnering with Hogar De Christo (HOC), Engineers Without Borders, International Rotary Clubs, and Clarkson University. This factory is continuing to develop stable production of filters for market, and is exploring their distribution with HOC affordable housing projects. The next step here will be to complete construction of their kiln, and work on the distribution plan.

Kenya – In  assistance to  the UNICEF Kenya program, we conducted an evaluation of ceramic water filter production; making recommendations for the expansion of the technology in at risk areas of the country.

Ethiopia – We are working as technical advisers to the 7th Day Adventist Hospital at Gimbi, after having completed a feasibility study in the western area of the country. The hospital identified water borne diseases as the principle factor affecting their patients.They are anticipating developing filter production on the hospital grounds which would potentially assist the entire region. This project is seeking matching funding from prospective partners.

Rwanda – We assisted a ceramic cooperative in Kigali with training to start production in 2010. They are now looking for assistance to stabilize production and further advertising and marketing. We have been discussing a plan with UNICEF for a short term consultancy which would fund a six month position at the factory.

Plans are underway for upgrading production in eastern Africa, in concert with organizations like the German Red Cross, Red Crescent societies, and UNICEF. This year we are assisting in factory upgrades, and new factory implementations in Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Somalia, Tanzania, and Ethiopia, as well as locations in western Africa.

Technological Development:

Fuel sources for kilns continues to be an issue of concern, particularly where competition for firewood for other basic needs is acute. In a continued effort with Howell’s Railway Products of the UK and input from various international factories a briquetting machine is being developed to replace the use of wood with compressed pellets made from sawdust and other agricultural by-products.

In the first stages of factory implementation manually operated hydraulic filter presses are often used to begin modest production of 30-100 filters per day. These presses have undergone an incredible process of evolution as local knowledge, materials and skills have been used to apply basic design principals in locally appropriate ways. Because of this, their development has progressed in an uncoordinated way with widely variable results. In an effort to improve the basic filter press design, Potters Without Borders and the International Joint Filter Committee have begun a survey of filter press design and usage, with over 20 international factories participating.

Recognizing a raw clay source as appropriate for the production of filters is an important aspect of feasibility and development stages of filter production. Working on the hypothesis that these qualities are directly related to particle size distribution, we have begun a program of testing clays from various international factories to develop an appropriate method of field analysis. It is hoped that using this data, clays from unreliable sources can be blended to produce a more consistent product.


I’ve been impressed by all that we’ve been able to accomplish and excited about the possibilities.  I encourage you to find out more.  Or if you have the feeling, as I do, that this is a worthwhile effort, consider making a donation, or getting more involved, by becoming a member, becoming a volunteer, or all of the above.

If you think this is worthwhile and want to help:

Donate (Online or by snail-mail)
Become A Member ($20) – Volunteer!
Join The Mailing List – E-mails about projects

Thanks for reading!


Why become a member?

We want to keep putting donations towards project specific expenses, in order for this to happen we need the membership dues for operating the Registered Charity. Each year we pay for the Website, Accounting expenses, Postage, Insurance, and Printing costs. It is our dues that keep the “organization” running. By paying dues you provide the basic operational structure necessary, for advancing our mission of fostering the building of water filter factories.

We have no paid administrators, the only way we can continue to be sustainable is with with your help.

As a group, we are looking for ways to provide additional benefits to our members. We can post a link to your website in our links area, and provide ad space in our newsletter.

Join Us!

Oita Press article

Yesterday (2/19) I met up with an old friend here in Oita (Japan) who works for Oita press. We spoke for well over two hours he was interested in our water filter research and my Japanese newspaper class I prepared in China using their newspaper and their video site. I referenced both the English and Japanese/Chinese PWB websites. I am not sure when the article will be published but it may lead to more interest from outside Canada.

Potters Without Borders Newsletter No.1

Issue No.1 – April 2007
P.O. Box 1006 Enderby, B.C. V0E 1B0 – CANADA

The Ceramic Water Filter

Greetings friends;

This is the first issue of the Potters Without Borders newsletter! A lot has happened since we started working towards the creation of this organization, and now we have the time to write about it.

Our first meeting was back in the spring of 2006, Reg Kienast, Joan Crebo, Don Pegg, Kai Morrill and Burt Cohen were there. The name of Potters Without Borders (PWB) was born, and along with the help of our other roaming board members Nicole Reidmuller in Vancouver and Samantha Sherer in Toronto we were able to lay the foundation for this new non-profit association.
A lot of brainstorming went on during that meeting to try and figure out what kinds of things were going to get into as an organization. Although we are still open to pretty much anything, this past year we have participated in projects principally related to fundraising and the development of Ceramic Water Filters and the technology involved in their production.

Fundraising efforts have been incredible. Last year we raised over $3500 with the help of private donations and a few dedicated volunteers.
It began in July of 2006 with the “Footprints” exhibition at the Roundhouse Community Arts Centre in Vancouver BC, where various ceramic artists auctioned original artworks in support of Potters For Peace and Potters Without Borders.
Shortly after, a group was put together to set up an information booth at the August, Komasket Music Festival in Vernon BC, the festival lasted for three days. This was the debut of the PWB raw cotton T-shirts, beautifully designed by Bill and Claire, members from up in Wells BC. The Ceramic Water Filter (CWF) display was well received and prompted many interesting discussions as well as garnering a few new members.
The booth worked so well we were then invited to present at the Roots and Blues festival in Salmon Arm BC, another three day event which was a great success. We sold piles of shirts and brochures, I couldn’t believe how many interested folks would wander up to have a chat, we might have to go back!
The March Silent Auction at the Shooglenifty dance and concert in Salmon Arm BC, was a great success. We want to thank the incredible artists who donated their beautiful works to this event, we raised over $1000!
This year we will have further opportunities to raise money in support of the kinds of projects you’ll read about below, and also to explore new possibilities in other areas.

Last August PWB sent Burt Cohen (one of PWB’s directors) off to Calgary AB to meet with the members of the Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST). Here we were able to help compare the various benefits of various methods of water sanitation and learn more about where our CWF technology fits into the big picture. Some important contacts were made and much information exchanged.

Burt also worked as a technical adviser to the Colombian Ceramic organization Artierra during February and March of this year. This assignment was undertaken through the generous support of the organization Canadian Executive Services Overseas (CESO) and their Colombian counterpart FICITEC, as a part of their Volunteer Assistance Program. Burt worked with seven pottery workshops in various aspects of production including kiln firing, clay, glazes, and forming processes. At the same time he was doing groundwork for a new CWF production workshop in Colombia to be sponsored by Oxfam, thanks Burt.

Since October of last year PWB has put significant effort into improving the design of the Dutch hydraulic filter press. After many weeks of patient laboring and the help of master machinists Art Gavel and Barry Cawston a new model, now referred to as the PWB double scissor press, was born. This press is made from very basic steel materials, using a 20 tonne jack, and two machined aluminum moulds. Thanks to Ben Morrill you can go to the PWB website to see a video of the press in action, as well as various schematics for its reproduction.
The press was put to use right away and the Northfire Pottery studio at O’keefe Ranch in Vernon BC, became a research facility. Engineering students working with Professor Frank Shih from Seattle University came up to produce the first in a series of test batches designed to experiment with CWF production. These students will be continuing their research as part of their senior projects.
The research facility in Vernon will continue to explore various potentials in the creation of Ceramic Water Filters, we are doing our best to publish all of our findings to the PWB website for public perusal.
In April Potters Without Borders will cooperate in the development of a CWF workshop in Sanaa, Yemen. At the request of the German non-governmental organization GTZ we will send a technician to Africa in order to assist in the implementation of a CWF production facility. We will be using the PWB press in a practical in the field situation, very exciting.

We have been making our presence known at the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) Confrence in the United States. Sending a representative to this type of international convention has been an important way for our organization to make contacts in all areas of the ceramic industry. These contacts often lead to overseas contracts for PWB. The NCECA website is: http://www.nceca.net
We are also assisting with Gonzaga University’s Department of Engineering in their efforts to develop a CWF filter factory in Benin this year.
Kai Morrill has been in Brazil and is investigating a possible partnership with another ceramics NGO in order to participate in projects for children.

Remember that research results, documents, and articles regarding Ceramic Water Filter (CWF) technology and Potters Without Borders activities are available for reading at http://www.potterswithoutborders.com, just click on DATABASE to see the articles. If there is anything you think we should include on the website, or in this newsletter, please contact me at kai@potterswithoutborders.com.

Enjoy springtime!
Kai Morrill

Download PDF: http://potterswithoutborders.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/04/newsletter.pdf

Open Letter

Potters Without Borders was formed out of our desire to establish a Canadian organization as a part of an international non-profit network capable of providing socially responsible assistance to pottery groups and individuals. This summer, a group of like minded friends, worked to establish PWB as new non-governmental organization. We provide support to field technicians who respond to direct requests to develop ceramic water filter manufacturing facilities overseas. We also offer technical training and consulting services and facilitate research, development, and commercial application of technology in the field of ceramics in developing countries.

Since our recent beginning, Potters Without Borders has been busy. We were involved in the World Urban Forum and the World Peace Forum in Vancouver in June organized by Nicole Riedmueller.(http://www.roundhouse.ca/footprints/waterfilter.html) This has resulted in our developing a Vancouver based chapter. We also had information booths at the Komasket Music Festival in Vernon, BC, as well as the Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival this summer in the Okanagan.

We are excited to be involved with research and promotion of ceramic water filters. These filters are a result of a marriage of two known technologies, porous ceramic and colloidal silver. The filters make bacteria free water economically with indigenous materials. A portion of Northfire Pottery workshops at the O´keefe Historic Ranch outside of Vernon, is now used for ceramic water filter research and development. We have now entered into relationships with the engineering faculties of both Seattle University and Gonzaga University in Spokane. In August, we were invited by Derek Baker to conduct ceramic water filter training at The Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST) in Calgary Alberta and exchanged ideas on the promotion of Household Water treatment. http://www.cawst.org/

Take a moment and visit our website, http://potterswithoutborders.com/ there you will find links to our very experienced sister organization, Potters for Peace- http://www.pottersforpeace.org/ as well as information about our work in Guatemala and Nicaragua. Our organization is committed to an open source philosophy; all of our publications are available to any interested parties I hope that you will consider supporting us and becoming involved. Contact us directly at:

Potters Without Borders

Po box 1006

Enderby, BC Canada V0E 1V0

E-mail: info@potterswithoutborders.com

CAWST Conference in Calgary AB

In August of this year Potters Without Borders and Potters For Peace were invited by the Calgary-based Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST) to demonstrate the methods used to produce Microporous Ceramic water filters. Ron Rivera from Potters for Peace and Burt Cohen from Potters Without Borders spent five days discussing and running a workshop on the processes involved. In addition our organizations familiarized each other with the the areas in the world where we work as well all of our local partners to see if there might be ways in which we could cooperate.
CAWST is primarily involved in the training and promotion of bio sand filters, but we are all involved with household water treatment technologies that are working towards similar goals, that of producing safe clean water. During our time in Calgary efforts were made to understand each others approaches and see how we could perhaps integrate the other technologies. While there we formed a number of ceramic water filters using a set of molds supplied by Potters for Peace. Other porous filter techniques were also reviewed.

We were impressed by CAWST´s abilities and effectiveness in promotion, training and experience in the field. They have a mature organization with resources that we hope can help Potters Without Borders to be taken seriously in the field of Household water treatment. Because of our commitment to an open-source philosophy we will share our work with like minded groups like CAWST. http://cawst.org/


Download document with images: CAWST.doc