Low-Cost Water Treatment System for Rural Areas in Developing Countries Author: F H Mughal Abstract A rational water

supply system should provide water to the greatest number of people at the lowest cost, in a reliable manner. Complex and expensive methods of water supply are not appropriate for rural areas in developing countries. Slow sand filtration continues to be appropriate water treatment system for rural areas. The process loses its competitiveness when sand and gravel are not easily available, or their cost is prohibitive. In addition, due to growing urbanization, the land costs, even in developing countries, have increased, limiting the applicability of slow sand filtration system. The two-stage filter system, using coconut fiber in the first unit and burnt rice husk in the second unit, in series, presents a promising new water treatment system for the rural areas in developing countries. In general, no chemicals would be required for treating raw waters. However, in some cases, when colloidal turbidity is encountered, coagulant, at relatively low dosage (just sufficient enough to induce agglomeration of the colloidal particles) may be required. Coagulant requirement is much lower than the coagulant required in slow sand filtration, where the coagulant amount is required to achieve effective coagulation and sedimentation. The system is operated at the lower end of the slow-sand filtration system range, that is, 2 liters/square meter per minute. Burnt rice husk should not have a weak structure, which is caused by its low silica content, as this will adversely impact its performance. The filter media are available in plenty in rural areas and constitute as an inexpensive local materials. The system can run for 600 hours without clogging, depending on the raw water turbidity levels. The estimated cost of the system would be around US$ 2,000 (2012 prices) at water flow rate of 1.25 cubic meters per hour, for 800 villagers (US$ 2.50 per person), while the operational cost would be US$ 0.15 per person. The system is also suitable as household water treatment system. The treated water quality would, in general, meet the WHO’s guidelines, for taste, color, turbidity and bacteriological content. Coliforms removal in properly operated systems would be more than 90 percent. A re-run of water through the system would enhance coliforms removal. The system has great potential for isolated and remotely-located small communities, where people use raw surface waters for drinking. In many rural situations, where water from polluted surface sources is carried over long distances and used directly, any significant improvement in service and water quality could be expected to have a beneficial impact on health. If an acceptable quality could be preserved with simple continuous treatment and source protection, the risk of transmission of water-borne diseases will have been markedly reduced even if final disinfection is not incorporated to provide absolute safety. On the other hand, coliforms removal of nearly 90%, in fact, competes very favorably with removal efficiencies obtained from conventional water treatment plants, prior to disinfection. Keywords: safe water, water treatment, challenges, low cost, rural communities,

Introduction

Supply of safe water, in adequate quantities, is essential for raising the health standards of communities in rural areas. Safe water supply is instrumental in reducing the morbidity and mortality among children and infants. Sanitation and hygiene, no doubt, are important adjuncts of the safe water supply, if full health benefits of safe water supply are to be realized. In addition to health improvements, the provision of safe water and sanitation in villages in the rural areas has beneficial effects on productivity, social conditions, village institutions, agricultural and economic development (Thanh and Pescod, 1976). On a broader scale, the provision of a water supply appears to be a key component of rural development. Provision of safe and potable water supply in the rural areas in developing countries is generally poor. Back in 1970s, a WHO (1973) report surveyed water supply position in 91 WHO Member States, showed that in South East Asia and Western Pacific regions, only about 10 percent of the rural population in 1970, or less than 8 percent of the total population, had reasonable access to safe water. During the Second UN Development Decade, from 1970 to 1980, the average increase in rural population in the two regions of WHO was estimated to be about 25 percent. Thanh and Pescod (1976), after conducting detailed analysis, found that the overall proportion of the rural population in these two regions, as well as the total number of rural people, with reasonable access to safe water in 1980 will be less than in 1970. Even, currently, the water supply coverage in rural areas is not quite satisfactory, though commendable progress has been achieved in the urban areas. According to the Millennium Development Goals Report 2012, 783 million people, or 11 percent of the global population, remain without access to an improved source of drinking water; and, at the current pace, 605 million people will still lack coverage in 2015. As regards the rural areas, the MDGs Report 2012 says: “Coverage with improved drinking water sources for rural populations is still lagging. In 2010, 96 per cent of the urban population used an improved drinking water source, compared with 81 per cent of the rural population. In absolute terms, because of population growth, the number of people without an improved source in urban areas actually increased. In rural areas, on the other hand, the number of people without an improved source of water decreased, from 1.1 billion in 1990 to 653 million in 2010. However, the gap between urban and rural areas still remains wide, with the number of people in rural areas without an improved water source five times greater than in urban areas.” Key Issues and Challenges In spite of the huge benefits and impacts, the availability of adequate and safe water supplies is beyond the reach of millions of peoples in villages in the rural areas in developing countries. In Pakistan, for example, only 10 percent of the rural population has access to drinking water. Even where the water is available, the quality of water supply is poor and unsafe. A host of factors are responsible for the poor quality of water supply. These include inappropriate technology, lack of skilled manpower, improper institutional arrangements and inadequate capital. The United Nations resolutions on right to water and sanitation came as blessings in disguise. The United Nations General Assembly and United Nations Human Rights Council adopted resolutions in 2010 recognizing water and sanitation as a single human

right (United Nations General Assembly, 2010a,b). Again, despite these helpful resolutions, the progress remain slow on access to safe water. States are responsible and legally accountable to use the maximum resources available to ensure that universal access to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water is progressively realized for all, without discrimination (Luh et al, 2013). According to JMP, WHO and UNICEF (2008), nearly 900 million people lack adequate access to improved water sources, and a greater number lack access to microbiologically safe water. In the rural areas of developing countries, women and girls have to walk 4 to 6 km daily to fetch water from distant sources. The 2010 JMP report indicates that, globally, an estimated 200 million hours are spent each day collecting water by women (JMP, WHO and UNICEF, 2010). Due to the poor quality of drinking water, waterborne diseases are widespread in the rural areas. In Pakistan, 40 percent of the beds in hospitals, at any given time, are occupied by patients, suffering from waterborne diseases (WWF, 2007). This basic human need is not met for a significant percentage of the world’s population and a much higher percentage of the world’s poor (IFC, 2009). Poor quality of drinking water has significant impact on the health of rural population, especially the women and children, due to diarrheal diseases. Over 440 million school days are missed annually due to water, sanitation, and hygiene-related illnesses (Moszynski, 2006). Despite the progress on water supply coverage, highlighted by the international agencies, the data presented in Box 1 paints a dismal picture of water supply coverage, in absolute terms. According to Juntopas and Naruchaikusol (2011), “over the past two to three decades, there has been relative success in providing new rural water infrastructure— building the physical systems—and driving increased service coverage levels. Despite this positive trend, there has to a large extent been a failure to find durable solutions to meeting the needs of the rural poor for safe, reliable domestic water. Rural populations face continuing and unacceptable problems with water systems that fail prematurely, creating false expectations and leading to wasted resources.” Similar views are expressed by Harold and Stef (2011). A rational water supply system should provide water to the greatest number of people at the lowest cost, in a reliable manner. Complex and expensive methods of water supply are not appropriate for rural areas in developing countries. Higher technology and high cost of technology imposes high demands for operation and maintenance and, imposing these in rural settings or in poor economies’ areas, would be just a waste of public money. The conventional approach to the rural water treatment systems have been of adapting scaled-down versions of technology, normally adopted in urban areas. In developed and rich countries, this adaptation did not create any problems. When the same technique was extrapolated to the rural areas of poor countries, these solutions seldom work.

Box 1: Water Facts Facts
More than 3.4 million people die each year from water, sanitation, and hygiene-related causes. Nearly all deaths, 99 percent, occur in the developing world. Lack of access to clean water and sanitation kills children at a rate equivalent of a jumbo jet crashing every four hours. Of the 60 million people added to the world's towns and cities every year, most move to informal settlements (i.e. slums) with no sanitation facilities. 780 million people lack access to an improved water source; approximately one in nine people. The (water and sanitation) crisis claims more lives through disease than any war claims through guns. An American taking a five-minute shower uses more water than the average person in a developing country slum uses for an entire day. Over 2.5X more people lack water than live in the United States.

Source
World Health Organization (WHO). (2008). Safer Water, Better Health: Costs, benefits, and sustainability of interventions to protect and promote health; Updated Table 1: WSH deaths by region, 2004 Estimated with data from Diarrhoea: Why children are still dying and what can be done. UNICEF, WHO 2009 UN Water. (2008). Tackling a global crisis: International Year of Sanitation 2008

Estimated with data from WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) for Water Supply and Sanitation. (2012). Progress on Sanitation and Drinking-Water, 2012 Update United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). (2006). Human Development Report 2006, Beyond Scarcity: Power, poverty and the global water crisis United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). (2006). Human Development Report 2006, Beyond Scarcity: Power, poverty and the global water crisis Estimated with data from WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) for Water Supply and Sanitation. (2012). Progress on Sanitation and Drinking-Water, 2012 Update Estimated with data from WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) for Water Supply and Sanitation. (2012). Progress on Sanitation and Drinking-Water, 2012 Update

More people have a mobile phone than a toilet.

Data accessed from water.org on 6 Feb 2013 Past and recent developments in water treatment have been mainly in the area of improving rapid sand filtration technology. Slow sand filtration continues to be appropriate water treatment system for rural areas. The process loses its competitiveness when sand and gravel are not easily available, or their cost is prohibitive. In addition, due to growing urbanization, the land costs, even in developing countries, have increased, limiting the applicability of slow sand filtration system. The high suspended silt load, a common occurrence in surface water bodies of Asia, quickly blocks the filter, reducing its filter run.

Opportunities Slow sand filtration water treatment system has been the water treatment system of choice for the last over 200 years, when in 1804, John Gibb designed and built an experimental slow sand filter for his bleachery in Paisley, Scotland (Huisman and Wood, 1974); and will continue to do so in future. Recent developments, however, has restricted the applicability of slow sand filters in the rural area. High inorganic turbidity of surface waters, now currently a recent phenomenon in developing countries, limits the filter runs of the slow sand filtration, a water treatment system typically used in rural areas. Sand and gravel, the filtering media used in slow sand filters, are also used as the constructional materials. Construction activities in the urban areas of the developing countries have increased significantly, due to large-scale urbanization. This has not only increased the cost of sand and gravel, but also, has made its availability constrained in the rural areas. Due to large-scale developments, the cost of land has gone up to a large extent. This applies to the rural areas as well. Slow sand filters require relatively large land area. Together with the relatively high coagulant requirement, the applicability of slow sand filtration has become restricted in the rural areas. It is essential to explore and to opt for other options to increase the access the water supply coverage in the rural areas of the developing countries, and more importantly, to provide sustainable and safe drinking water to the rural communities. The criteria for a sustainable water system (definition of sustainability is given in Box 2) in rural communities is suggested as: (a) the system should be simple and conform to the general local understanding of the villagers; (b) the system is simple to operate; (c) the filter media used in the system are freely available in village communities; (d) the capital and operating costs of the system are relatively low; and (e) the system is suitable both as a household water treatment system, and as a system for community water supply.

Box 2: Definition of Sustainability
“Sustainability” is now commonly used in the jargon of development staff. A service is sustainable when (IRC & WHO, 2000): ■ It functions properly and is used. ■ It provides the services for which it was planned, including: delivering the required quantity and quality of water; providing easy access to the service; providing service continuity and reliability; providing health and economic benefits; and in the case of sanitation, providing adequate sanitation access. ■ It functions over a prolonged period of time, according to the designed lifecycle of the equipment. ■ The management of the service involves the community (or the community itself manages the system); adopts a perspective that is sensitive to gender issues; establishes partnerships with local authorities; and involves the private sector as required. ■ Its operation, maintenance, rehabilitation, replacement and administrative costs are covered at local level through user fees, or through alternative sustainable financial mechanisms. ■ It can be operated and maintained at the local level with limited, but feasible, external support (e.g. technical assistance, training and monitoring). ■ It has no harmful effects on the environment. Source: Francois and Maarten (2003)

Source: Thanh and Hettiaratchi (1982)

COCONUT FIBER AND BURNT RICE HUSK WATER TREATMENT SYSTEM Based on the preceding discussions, the use of coconut fiber and burnt rice husk water filtration system is suggested for the rural communities in the developing countries. This is a two-stage water filtration system, in which coconut fiber is placed in the first unit and burnt rice husk in the second unit, in series. The figure above shows the schematic diagram of the system. The raw water flows to the coconut fiber unit, where about initial reduction in the turbidity occurs and produces an effluent acceptable for subsequent treatment in burnt rice husk filter, the second filter, in series Coconut fiber has great capability to remove turbidity from raw waters normally encountered in surface water in the developing countries. The system is operated at the lower end of the slow-sand filtration system range, that is, 2 liters/square meter per minute (0.05 gallons/minute/square foot). In general, no chemicals would be required for treating raw waters. However, in some cases, when colloidal turbidity in encountered, coagulant, at relatively low dosage (just sufficient enough to induce agglomeration of the colloidal particles and have them removed by the coconut fiber unit) may be required. This is much lower than the coagulant required in slow sand filtration, where the coagulant amount is required to achieve effective coagulation and sedimentation. The coconut fiber-burnt rice husk filter system has its origin at the Environmental Engineering Division of the Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok, where research conducted in 1973-74, under the tropical weather conditions, showed that the system has the ability to produce reasonably good quality effluent (Frankel, 1973; 1974). In

surface waters of developing countries, the variability of the turbidity is high and, there is a greater range of particle sizes. This enables longer duration of filter runs, without any decrease in effluent quality. Any filtering system that results in rapid rate of head-loss build-up is not convenient and, rejected by the villagers, because they do not prefer a system that requires frequent filter cleaning. Frankel (1974), reporting on the findings of pilot-scale projects established in Thailand, Viet Nam, Khmer Republic, Laos, and a large village size unit for 5,000 persons established in Thailand, operated for 15 months, found that the physical quality of the treated waters was generally sparkling clear, with turbidity less than 5 JTU, colorless, odorless, and of pleasant taste. Turbidity removals were generally greater than 80 percent and as high as 97 percent. Iron removal, where high iron containing waters existed, was sufficient to reduce all waters to within recommended limits. The bacteriological quality of the treated waters was generally 90 percent or more improved over the untreated raw waters, a removal rate which compared very favorably with removal efficiencies obtained from conventional water treatment plants prior to disinfection. Filters were operated for 4 to 5 months without a change of filter media. Attractive aspects, associated with the system are (a) the coagulant (typically, alum) requirements are about one-half the coagulant demand, because the intention is to induce agglomeration of particles, which are then effectively entrapped and removed by coconut fiber unit. In case of sand filtration, full coagulant demand is met for effective coagulation and sedimentation; (b) since the coconut fiber is a fibrous medium, it is not subjected to frequent clogging as would occur in sand filtration; (c) the system has the ability to remove about 90 percent of iron, present in raw waters. Typically, groundwater has high iron content. The filter media are available in plenty in rural areas and constitute as an inexpensive local materials. The system can run for 600 hours without clogging, depending on the raw water turbidity levels. Coconut fiber filter has considerable potential to tolerate raw water turbidity fluctuations (shock loadings) and still produce satisfactory effluent. The coconut fibers, through their physical configuration, are a promising filtering medium to remove sufficient turbidity from raw waters. For water containing very fine colloidal material (particle size less than 1 micron), addition of small dosages of chemicals (alum) would be necessary. In developing countries, coconut fiber is available in plenty at the coconut oil extraction plants. Likewise, availability of rice husk is profuse at the rice mills. Sand and gravel, on the other hand, have become relatively costly items, as they constitute building materials and, there is a large-scale urbanization in developing countries, involving massive building construction work. Coconut fibers, before being used, should be soaked in water for at least 24 hours and rinsed 3 or 4 times to remove organic color, originating in the fiber structure. In some cases, it is possible that washing and reusing the coconut fiber may deteriorate its quality. Subject to the physical observation, it is advised that the coconut fibers should be replaced after second time use. In case of burnt rice husk filter, the suspended solids are deposited to a greater depth, due to the porous nature. This is key to the excellent removal efficiencies of the filter. Burnt rice husk should not have a weak structure, which is cause by its lower silica content, as this affects the filtration properties of the husks and, leads to frequent clogging. The weight loss of weak-structured rice husks, when burnt at 600o C for 1 hour

is high (nearly 50 percent). Burnt rice husks should, preferably, have a relatively high non-uniform coefficient (U = 5.8) and the effective size should be 9 x 10-2 centimeter. Burnt rice husk is composed of about 90 percent silicon dioxide, 6-7 percent oxides of magnesium, calcium and iron; and the remaining 3-4 percent is organic matter. The estimated cost of the system would be around US$ 2,000 (2012 prices) at water flow rate of 1.25 cubic meters per hour, for 800 villagers (US$ 2.50 per person), while the operational cost would be US$ 0.15 per person. The coconut fiber and burnt rice husk filter system is highly cost-effective and competitive from a village perspective. When compared with the conventional water treatment plants (typically, the slow sand filtration), the system would be about 25 times cheaper, in capital costs. Use of solar pumps, since there is plenty of sunshine in tropical developing countries, would further improve upon the capital costs and the operational costs of the system. The deficiency of coliforms removal of 90 percent would tend to limit the application of this simple system in the provision of treated water to rural areas, if the bacteriological guidelines of WHO are strictly applied. A much improved quality water, which is convenient and acceptable to villagers is preferable to absolutely safe water, which villagers reject in favor of their traditional contaminated supply. In many rural areas, acceptability is a more important criterion than bacterial quality. In many rural situations, where water from polluted surface sources in carried over long distances and used directly, any significant improvement in service and water quality could be expected to have a beneficial impact on health. Costly attempts to meet international standards are unnecessary and wasteful in developing countries. If an acceptable quality could be preserved with simple continuous treatment and source protection, the risk of transmission of water-borne diseases will have been markedly reduced even if final disinfection is not incorporated to provide absolute safety. On the other hand, coliforms removal of nearly 90 percent, in fact, competes very favorably with removal efficiencies obtained from conventional water treatment plants, prior to disinfection (Thanh and Pescod, 1976). The treated water quality would, in general, meet the WHO’s guidelines, for taste, color, turbidity and bacteriological content. Coliforms removal in properly operated systems would be more than 90 percent. A re-run through the system would enhance coliforms removal further. The system has great potential for isolated and remotely-located small communities, where people use raw surface waters for drinking. Considering the number of coliform microorganisms in the raw waters in poor developing countries, and the situation where the rural population has been using unsafe waters for decade, the final treated water could be considered suitable for the purpose of village community needs, requiring a certain relaxation of WHO guidelines for drinking-waters. Recommendations The system should be replicated in various countries of South Asia, as the system has been previously tested under tropical conditions. This will also enable assessment of the performance of the system under different ambient conditions. Wegelin (1996) has suggested use of roughing filters of coarse gravel, ranging in size from 25 to 4 mm in size, as prefilters ahead of slow sand filtration, under conditions where raw waters are highly turbid, to increase the filter runs of slow sand filters. It is

recommended that comparative performance of roughing filters and coconut fiber units be assessed to evaluate how coconut fiber units compare with the performance of roughing filters. Likewise, a comparative performance of burnt rice husk units and sand filters should also be made. The ready-made units of coconut fiber mats and burnt rice husk mats should be made available in the rural areas of the Asian countries, which would provide a degree of convenience. A detailed physical and chemical analysis of the properties of coconut fiber and burnt rice husk should be carried out, and then evaluated to suggest possible increase in the performance of the filter media. In addition, the detailed description of the properties of the filter media should be documented to insure their effectiveness as robust filter media. While the previous studies investigated the influence of raw water turbidity and filtration rates on the quality of treated water, in terms of turbidity and coliform removals, studies are required to assess the performance of the system on the removals of heavy metals, a pressing problem currently of the developing countries in Asia. References Frankel, R.J. (1973), Evaluation of Effectiveness of Community Water Supply in Northeast Thailand, Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok Frankel, R.J. (1974), Evaluation of Pilot Water Treatment Units Using Inexpensive Local Materials as Filter Media for Supplying Drinking Water to Rural Communities in the Lower Mekong Basin Countries, Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok Francois Brikke and Maarten Bredero (2003), Linking Technology Choice with Operation and Maintenance in the Context of Community Water Supply and Sanitation. A Reference Document for Planners and Project Staff, World Health Organization and IRC Water and Sanitation Centre, Geneva, Switzerland Harold Lockwood and Stef Smits (2011), Supporting Rural Water Supply - Moving towards a Service Delivery Approach, IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre and Aguaconsult, Practical Action Publishing Ltd., The Schumacher Centre, Bourton on Dunsmore, Rugby, Warwickshire, UK IFC (2007), Safe Water for All – Harnessing the Private Sector to Reach the Underserved, International Finance Corp., The World Bank Group, Washington, DC Juntopas, M. and Naruchaikusol, S., (2011). Thailand: Lessons for Rural Water Supply; Assessing Progress Towards Sustainable Service Delivery. The Hague: IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre and Bangkok: Stockholm Environment Institute, Asia Centre Luh, J., et al. (2013), Equity in water and sanitation: Developing an index to measure progressive realization of the human right. Int. J. Hyg. Environ. Health, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijheh.2012.12.007 Millennium Development Goals Report 2012, United Nations, NY

Moszynski, P. 2006. “Worldwide water crisis is a ‘silent emergency,’ UN agency says.” British Medical Journal 333: 986 Pakistan’s Waters at Risk, Water and Health Related Issues in Pakistan and Key Recommendations, WWF, 2007, Lahore, Pakistan Thanh, N.C. and Herriaratchi, J.P.A. (1982), Surface Water Filtration for Rural Areas – Guidelines for Design, Construction, Operation and Maintenance, Environmental Sanitation Information Center, Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok Wegelin, M. (1996), Surface Water Treatment by Roughing Filters, SKAT, SANDEC Report # 2/96, Switzerland WHO and UNICEF, 2008, Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) for Water Supply and Sanitation. (2010). Progress on Sanitation and Drinking-Water, 2010 Update; World Health Organization (WHO). (2004). Evaluation of the Costs and Benefits of Water and Sanitation Improvements at the Global Level World Health Organization (1973), Special Subject: Community Water Supply and Sewage Disposal in Developing Countries, 1970, World Health Statistics, v. 6, no. 11, pp. 720-783 Thanh, N.C. and Pescod, M.B. (1976), Application of Slow Sand Filtration for Surface Water Treatment in Tropical Developing Countries, Final Report No. 65, Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok United Nations General Assembly, 2010a. Resolution 64/292. The Human Right to Water and Sanitation. In: 108th Plenary Meeting, Jul 28 2010 United Nations General Assembly, 2010b. Human Rights Council: Resolution 15/9. Human Rights and Access to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation. 6 October 2010

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