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The Process Behind the Biosand Filter

Water is the most vital resource that we use on this plant. It is essential for everything living. With the demand for fresh water increasing and the decline in natural water sources such as aquifers (natural below ground storage that contain fresh water), it is important that we know how to treat water and protect our water sources. There are many different inexpensive ways to treat or filter water. The Biosand Filter, a variation of a slow sand filter, has been used for decades. The purpose of this document is to describe how the Biosand Filter works and how each part is vital for its success. In the following document I will be using the Centre of Affordable Water and Sanitation Technologies (CAWST) Biosand Filter design see in figure 1. It is a proven design and has been implemented all over the world. For this document, the reader should be knowledgeable about water filters in general; however, it is not necessary to fully understand all the different parts before reading this document. There are two major layers to the Biosand Filter. There is the Filtration Sand Layer and the Gravel Layers. In this document I will expxlain the process the water and bacteria go through as they travel through the biosand filter.

Figure 1 A Typical CAWST Biosand Filter Design

Filtration Sand Layer

Through the filtration sand layer, the contaminated water goes through a four-stage process (figure 2): Predation, Trapping, Adsorption, and Natural Death. These stages describe the life cycle a pathogen in the Biosand Filter. A pathogen is a microorganism in water that makes us sick.

Figure 2 The Filtration Sand Layer Pathogen Process

Predation Process
To use your biosand filter you remove your lid and pour water into the diffuser plate of the filter. The diffuser plate evens out the load of water to protect the biolayer and sand from being disturbed by the water. After the diffuser plate, the contaminated water becomes in contact with the biological layer. The biological layer is made up of micro-organisms that can eat some of the pathogens as the water filters through. Next the water passes through the sand layers.

As the water passes through the next few layers, it becomes in contact with the filtration sand bed which removes some of the pathogens and suspended solids or dirt and other small pieces in the water (may also be called turbidity) from the water. Here the filtration sand is of particle size 0.7 mm. With this exact grain size, the filtration sand can collect the larger pathogens and suspended solids that the biolayer could not eat and filter out. This layer will contain about 30 L of sand.

In the adsorption phase, the water is still traveling through the 0.7 mm size grain of sand. However, some of the contaminants and particles become stuck to the sand grains, removing them from the water. Thus the particles are becoming adsorbed by the sand grains. This is a very important step and cleaning this layer of sand is just as important as cleaning the biolayer.

Natural Death
In the final stage through the filtration sand layer, the pathogens that have been captured begin to die off, because of old age or not enough food or oxygen to survive. Thus more pathogens are removed from the water.

Gravel Layer
As the water leaves the filtration sand layer, it must travel through the separation gravel (0.7mm-6mm particle size) and drainage gravel (6-12mm particle size). Through these layers, any sand particulates will be captured and prevented from moving though the drainage pipe. Once the water reaches the drainage pipe, it flows out into a clean water collection bucket. This bucket must have a lid to prevent it from contamination.

Biosand Filters can be used for three months until they need to be cleaned. It is important to clean the Biosand Filters from the pathogens and other bacteria that are stuck in the sand. This can be done by simply scrapping off the biological layer and allowing a new biological layer to grow. This can take about three more weeks for the biological layer to grow. The most remarkable use of the Biosand Filter technology is their usefulness in the developing world. Most homes do not have access to clean water. Likewise, it can be too expensive to treat water by boiling or chlorine tablets. However the Biosand Filter can be made for as little as $40 and can remove:

Up to 100% of helminths (worms) Up to 100% of protozoa Up to 98.5% of bacteria 70-99% of viruses 95% of turbidity (dirt and cloudiness) 95% or iron

Most water filtration technologies implemented in the developing world do not last longer than a year due to poor monitoring and maintenance. However, Biosand Filters have been known to last more than 5 years after their implementation. Biosand Filters last longer because an individual household owns the filter and they are more likely to maintain the filters use and replace any broken parts right away. The household has a greater ownership over the Biosand Filter. Therefore, the lifespan of the Biosand Filter lasts longer than an implemented well with pump. With clean water come new opportunities for women and children all over the world. Death rates decrease and more children are present at school. In addition, mothers do not need to spend time searching for clean water. They can participate in community meetings and education. With Biosand Filters, households can gain clean water and new opportunities in education and leadership.

Works Cited "Biosand Filter." CAWST. Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology, n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2014. <>. "Biosand Filter Construction Manual | WASH Education and Training Resources." Biosand Filter Construction Manual | WASH Education and Training Resources. CAWST, 01 Aug. 2012. Web. 22 Mar. 2014. <>. "Biosand Filters Questions & Answers." Biosand N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2014. <>.