Optimizing the Biosand Filter for Drinking Water Treatment in Developing Countries

EPA Grant Number: SU834718
Title: Optimizing the Biosand Filter for Drinking Water Treatment in Developing Countries
Investigators: Jellison, Kristen L. , Barnes-Pohjonen, Robin , Doup, Kyle , Napotnik, Julie , Smith, Natalie L. , Villacorta, Nicole , Zientarski, Sara
Current Investigators: Jellison, Kristen L. , Napotnik, Julie , Schweitzer, Ryan
Institution: Lehigh University
Current Institution: Lehigh University , University of South Florida
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2010 through August 14, 2011
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2010) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Water , P3 Awards , Sustainability


More than one in six people worldwide, the equivalent of 894 million people, do not have access to safe drinking water. The concrete biosand filter (BSF) is an attractive water treatment option in developing countries because it produces high quality drinking water, is durable, and is easy to use and maintain. The filters have a manufacturing cost ranging from $10-30 USD, and while there are no other costs for consumables or maintenance, the BSF can still be too costly for some of the poorest households in the developing world. In addition, the size and weight of the concrete filter make it cumbersome and difficult to transport beyond the initial installation site. This research will test the hypothesis that biosand filtration can be effective with smaller, less expensive units in order to more sustainably meet the needs of a larger global market.


We will compare the efficacy of three new BSF designs (the CAWST concrete BSF, a 5-gal bucket BSF, and a 2-gal bucket BSF), with and without the addition of rusty nails in the diffuser basin, for removal of turbidity, total coliforms, E. coli, MS2 coliphage, and Cryptosporidium parvum oocysts from drinking water. Filter influent will consist of local spring water (piped to the laboratory) spiked with E. coli (500 CFU/100 mL), MS2 coliphage (2000 PFU/100 mL), C. parvum oocysts (5000 oocysts/100 mL), and sediments from a local river bed (to achieve turbidities of 5 or 50 NTU). After ripening, the filters will be run for 28 consecutive weeks (4 weeks each using pause periods of 1, 2, 3, 6, 12, 24, and 72 hrs). Removal efficiencies will be compared using analysis of variance, and multiple direct comparisons between filter designs will be made using the Wilcoxon-Mann-Whitney test and/or independent t-test.

Expected Results:

Results from this work will identify whether the smaller, cheaper bucket BSFs can produce drinking water that is comparable in quality to that produced by the CAWST-modified concrete BSF. Making BSF technology more accessible to a broader population (by making the technology more affordable and user-friendly) will reduce the incidence of waterborne diarrheal disease, increase the productivity and earning capacity of the average household, and help households and communities break the cycle of sickness and poverty which currently plagues billions of people worldwide.

Supplemental Keywords:

point-of-use water treatment, filtration, water quality, waterborne disease, public health,

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report