Sustainable Community Development – Water Slow-Sand Filtration

EPA Grant Number: SU833544
Title: Sustainable Community Development – Water Slow-Sand Filtration
Investigators: Bland, Larry , Kim, Young-Gurl
Current Investigators: Bland, Larry , Alvarez, Claudia , Kim, Young-Gurl , Mitchell, TJ , Ruiz, Javier , Soberanis, Luis , Young, Preston
Institution: John Brown University
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: I
Project Period: August 31, 2007 through July 31, 2008
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2007) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Water , P3 Awards , Sustainability


The proposed research project question is: “How can a Slow-Sand water purification system be improved to meet the needs of a small community?” A major issue that persists in underdeveloped areas is both water quality and quantity. There have been point-of-use water purification systems developed that can provide for particulate removal, bacteria destruction, or both. However, large-scale community systems have remained too expensive for underdeveloped communities. This project has three goals: 1) perform research and development tasks that would increase the throughput of the slow-sand technology; 2) design the research outcome into a total community system design that would be applicable to a wide variety of communities; 3) develop an educational strategy that would provide for indigenous community integration, maintenance, and sustainability.


While slow sand filters exist, the research will test a greenhouse test bed for process improvements that would yield a filtration process that will have a sustainable community level flow rate, create a preventative maintenance process that will create a micro-enterprise while sustaining water quality, and evaluate structural improvements for both improved flow rates and ease of maintenance. This task will be accomplished through a series of key tasks: 1) construction of a small scale test bed; 2) complete experimental characterization of the Schmutzdecke layer for water flow rates and filtration; 3) incorporate structural modifications for increased flow; 4) develop optimal maintenance procedures that are culturally appropriate; and 5) develop educational and micro-enterprise plans for sustainable integration into a host community. This project has the support and commitments from Students In Free Enterprise and The Institute for Biblical Community Development as partner NGO’s.

Expected Results:

The outcomes of this project will be integrated into multiple on-campus courses in engineering, business, and intercultural studies.

Supplemental Keywords:

water purification, filtration, pathogenic organisms, disinfection, appropriate technology,

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report