Using dirt to purify water does not immediately strike you as the ideal way to provide drinking water to the masses, but this is exactly what the Life and Water Development Group Cameroon (LWDGC) is doing. Founded in 2004 by Peter Njodzeka, the group has set a single goal: seeing that the people in the area have access to clean water. In a location where potable water is a rarity, Njodzeka has created an amazing and innovative process that uses bio sand filters to clean water.
With help from Engineers Without Borders USA of the Hope College Chapter, LWDGC has constructed and installed bio sand filters (made from dirt) in Njodzeka’s home village of Nkuv. The project, which has been six years in the making, is not only set to benefit the inhabitants of Nkuv, but six other villages and their wells. Working with Thirst Relief International USA, LWDGC’s sand bio filters are also set to provide clean water to the villages, giving way to improved hygiene and sanitation practices.
The bio sand filters eliminate diseases that are generally found in contaminated water, via several layers of different sized sediments. Built in an iron mold, the bio sand filters start with a concrete base which form the bottom of the filter. The filter’s center is then filled with layers of differently-sized, crushed rock – namely two layers of gravel and fine-grained sand, which create three levels. Water is then poured through this multi-layered mixture, and over the course of three weeks a biolayer forms on top of the filter which removes 99 percent of the bacteria from the water that passes through it. The drinking water then slowly filters through the layers of naturally formed bacteria and sand at a rate of about one liter per minute, and comes out potable. What’s even more amazing is that this natural filter can last 12 months if properly maintained.
Speaking about the innovation and efforts, which also features a number of workshops that teaches basic hygiene and sanitation, Njodzeka said, “No one believes us when we say that everything that will filter the water is already in the water.” He added, “The workshops are important because not everyone realizes that there is a problem.”
In a region where contaminated water is responsible for a large percentage of illness and even death, the bio sand filters are set to transform the community. “They really help,” Njodzeka said. “When we finish working with a community they always tell us that they don’t have the sickness like before. It’s helping and saving the lives of people.”
WHY THIS MATTERS:
Living in industrialized nations, many of us don’t realize that around the world there are millions of people who don’t have access to this life sustaining resource. Developing methods that can be implemented widely at a low cost is a significant step towards remedying the issue of clean and potable water.