Improved Biosand Filters by Enhanced Monitoring and Data Collection Methods

EPA Grant Number: SU835515
Title: Improved Biosand Filters by Enhanced Monitoring and Data Collection Methods
Investigators: Nguyen, Thanh (Helen) H.
Current Investigators: Nguyen, Thanh (Helen) H. , Densler, Allison , Pugh, Charles , Wang, Hanting , Vasey, Megan , Sadi, Nora , Dong, Shengkun
Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign , Environment and Public Health Organization (ENPHO) , Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology
Current Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign , Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology , Environment and Public Health Organization (ENPHO)
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Phase: I
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) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Safe and Sustainable Water Resources , P3 Awards , Sustainable and Healthy Communities


Biosand filters (BSFs) are intermittently-operated slow sand filters for household use designed by the Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST), an international nonprofit organization. They were shown to be an effective, easy-to-use method for improving water quality by removing pathogens, reducing turbidity, and treating a wide range of other contaminants in areas worldwide. Despite their low cost, ease of use, and effectiveness when used according to recommended guidelines by CAWST, implementation of BSFs frequently incurs problems that cause it to be an unsustainable water solution. The technical challenges identified in past studies include both inconsistent usage of BSFs over time and variability of BSF effectiveness between communities using the same water source, suggesting that efficacy relies heavily on user habits. Furthermore, past studies have investigated user patterns only through self-reported home survey methods, making the current available data insufficient to guide a useful BSF redesign. Our objectives are to develop a sensor that can detect and record accurate, real-time data of in-field BSF use, and use this data to (1) identify patterns of user habits and correlate them with BSF pathogen removal, (2) improve user habits to increase pathogen removal, and (3) pinpoint the shortcomings of the current Version 10 BSF design in meeting real world user needs. This data is essential to develop an understanding of realistic BSF user habits because of its unbiased accuracy; therefore, it can be used as a reliable basis to design a new BSF that works effectively under real world use.


In order to achieve our objective, our project will partner with CAWST and Environment and Public Health Organization (ENPHO), a local Nepali non-governmental organization (NGO). Our project will directly impact the people and prosperity of the community in the Gorkha district, a mountainous district in the western region of the Gandaki zone in Nepal. The two sites in the district that will be studied are the Batase and Dandidada villages. The population in Batase is 1000 people and in Dandidada, 1200 people, and the majority of community members from both villages are from low caste groups. Both communities use a traditional stone spout from a spring water source for drinking water purposes, however, the water is not potable. The 2010 report by the Gorkha municipality of ENPHO showed high incidence of infectious and noninfectious diarrhea, intestinal worms, and amoebiasis in both communities. In order to alleviate these health issues, ENPHO has formed collaboration between the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) and CAWST to implement BSFs in individual houses. Our project proposes to modify a subset of the filters implemented with sensors that detect and record the volume of water poured into the filter and the flow rate. The development and testing of this data collection instrument would be conducted in Phase I. The efficacy of BSFs are tied directly to how well people use them, yet BSF improvement is hindered by social and cultural factors that skew usage data. Improvements to BSF design that incorporate actual, rather than ideal, usage practices will directly improve the lives of millions of people around the world.

This project fulfills the goals of section 1442 of the Safe Drinking Water Act. No by-products are produced during the use of BSFs and all naturally occurring, biological functions within the filter are safe for human exposure. This project is a design modification on the existing CAWST BSF that already produces safe drinking water. The modification will neither hinder the effectiveness of the filters, nor introduce any contaminant, let alone any substances to the water.

Expected Results:

The result of this project will be the development of a sensor that will automatically and accurately record BSF use, flow rate, and volume of water poured in. The quantitative volume and flow rate data output will be used to compare actual BSF frequency and usage patterns with CAWST guidelines. The data will be correlated with pathogen removal from the water to determine the impact of consistent use of BSFs on water quality. Ultimately, this invaluable quantitative data describing in-field, post-implementation BSF user habits will guide our partner organization, CAWST, in a BSF redesign process. Prior to implementation, ENPHO will educate community members on BSF use and the importance of water and sanitation practices. At this time, ENPHO will also introduce the concept of the sensor and explain to filter users that its purpose serves to create a more effective BSF that can better suit their needs and the needs of other BSF users around the world. During implementation in December of 2013, the sensor will be added to 50 BSFs in Batase and Dandidada. The sensors will be checked monthly by ENPHO, and in addition to providing valuable data for CAWST, it will allow ENPHO to alter their education efforts based on up-to-date user habits. This will improve filter use, and in turn, the health and quality of life of its users.

The development and testing of the data collection instrument and subsequent study of BSF use will be educative for participating students, local communities, and NGOs around the world. Most importantly, the proposed project will lead to a significant improvement in the effectiveness and sustainability of one of the most prevalent point-of-use water treatment technologies in use today, and in the health and quality of life of the local communities.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 5 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 1 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Water treatment, monitoring, biosand filter, user habits, human health;

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report