Research Grants/Fellowships/SBIR

Drinking Water System for Developing Countries / Disaster Relief Made with Local Materials

EPA Grant Number: SU835531
Title: Drinking Water System for Developing Countries / Disaster Relief Made with Local Materials
Investigators: Hestekin, Christa , Penney, Roy , Schulte, Stephanie
Current Investigators: Hestekin, Christa , Cole, Lauren , Durant, Keiron , Goss, Jordan , Hasan, Shumon , Lee, DJ , Penney, Roy , Qasem, Omar , Schulte, Stephanie , Serrano Castillo, Florencio , Tichy, Cayla
Institution: University of Arkansas at Fayetteville
EPA Project Officer: Levinson, Barbara
Project Period: August 15, 2013 through August 14, 2014
Project Amount: $15,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2013) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Water , P3 Awards , Sustainability



Access to drinking water is essential to all life, yet in many developing and remote communities disease causing pathogens contaminate this necessary resource. The objective of this proposed effort is to assemble a water purification system for untreated, non-potable water that can be economically constructed from easily and locally available materials. In addition, a set of pictorial instructions will be developed so that illiterate people can build and maintain the equipment. The technical equipment used for this approach will be a two person treadle pump, a scotch yolk generator, a natural filter, a storage tank, and a hypochlorite generator.


Providing safe and sustainable sources of drinking water in developing countries is a challenge due to a myriad of economic, infrastructure, and communication factors. This innovative P3 Project directly addresses all three of these factors. The water purification system will be easily constructed utilizing only pictorial instructions and use locally available, inexpensive or free resources. Providing a water purification solution to the people that can be maintained by the people will be empowering. Sustainable solutions to some of the world’s largest problems are best tackled by understanding and creatively working within the context in which the problem exists.
Students and professors in Engineering and Communication will work together to research and create the purification system and accompanying pictorial instructions. In addition to the obvious benefits from this interdisciplinary collaboration, a local group of high school juniors and seniors will test the final product. They will assemble the system using only the instructions and provide valuable feedback for improvement. Furthermore, the project will be incorporated into undergraduate classes in order to continue the modifications necessary to create and distribute the system to different locations around the world.

Expected Results:

This Phase I P3 project will produce a functional water purification system and accompanying set of pictorial assembly instructions in preparation for initial testing in Belize. The interdisciplinary group will evaluate the ease of assembly by recruiting local high school juniors and seniors with no experience in water purification systems to assess the instructions and operation.  Even more specifically, this project will determine how many people are required to operate a two-person treadle pump for 8 hours a day, how much power can be obtained from a scotch yolk generator hooked to a treadle pump, and how efficient a hypochlorite generator can be for producing clean water with only people power.

Supplemental Keywords:

sustainable water management, holistic design, drinking water disinfection, pathogen removal, resource recovery, water treatment, water filtration, drinking water treatment technologies;

Progress and Final Reports:
Final Report