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.
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!