What it does
Low-cost drinking water filters are limited in scope. For ~$30 USD, Aguadapt lasts for over four years, removes organic chemicals and 99.9999% of all pathogens, is easily installed in common containers, and can be adapted to treat other contaminants.
Shipping bottled water is commonplace in disaster situations. Additionally, low-income people worldwide are disproportionately affected by rising levels of chemical contamination. Aguadapt solves both issues. It attaches quickly to nearly any container with no training required, and – at about the size and weight of a 1-liter bottle of water – Aguadapt can produce more than 27,000-liters of drinking water over its lifetime. Using low-cost materials, Aguadapt removes bacteria, organic chemicals, and can even be modified to remove arsenic, fluoride, and other contaminants – at a price accessible for a family living on less than $2 USD per day.
How it works
The design includes a certified ceramic filter produced locally by Caminos de Agua, a refillable cartridge, and a universal adapter, all open-source and made from commonly-available materials. As gravity pulls contaminated water through the ceramic filter, the pores, while controlling the flow rate, exclude solid particles and large bacteria. Colloidal silver kills the remaining microorganisms. The water then passes through the refillable cartridge full of high-temperature biochar, which physically adsorbs organic chemicals, producing water that’s usually fit to drink. However, if a water source has other contaminants, you can easily connect multiple media cartridges designed to target the locally-relevant toxins. Here in central Mexico, we make and use sorbents that remove arsenic and fluoride, but please adapt your own! The universal adapter allows anyone to install the system into common containers and choose the appropriate treatment steps for their water.
At Caminos de Agua, we began developing the ceramic filter to disinfect water for local rainwater harvesting projects. We spent years testing dozens of clays and hundreds of mixes – wrestling with acceptable flow-rates and even arsenic leaching from some of the clays. Finally we found a mix that worked. Although we have distributed over 2,000 ceramic filters, the current method of attachment takes two weeks to cure and shipping jerrycans requires large boxes, trucks, and logistics. When disasters shook Mexico last year, we were unable to respond quickly enough. This failure to provide life-saving solutions lit a fire under our team to develop a universally adaptable filter that is easy to install and ship. After many rounds of 3D printed prototypes, testing in all the containers we could find, and conversations with users and specialists, we are on the verge of moving to an injection molded pilot run of 1,000 adapters. When organizations around Mexico began asking us for low-cost ways to treat agrochemical-laden river water, we started working on the biochar cartridge. To suit most contexts, the Aguadapt will ship with both the ceramic filter and cartridge, but can be easily adapted to remove other contaminants, like the arsenic and fluoride we have in our local water.
How it is different
Aguadapt disrupts the low-cost water filter market in three important ways: 1. While most ceramic filters are bulky and ship with massive plastic containers, our universal adapter allows Aguadapt to ship quickly with minimal risk of damage. The user just has to cut holes in two buckets and screw it all together. 2. Although many filters use activated carbon, most cartridges are tiny, designed only for aesthetic treatment and are costly to replace. Our large, refillable cartridge ensures sufficient contact time to actually bind organics and allows users to change their carbon as necessary, without paying for new plastic. 3. Almost all modular filter systems use proprietary cartridges. Treatment steps can be outrageously expensive since users are forced to buy from the brand. Our universal adapter’s threads match with PVC worldwide so users can build their own cartridges or fill ours with whatever media they need.
In the summer of 2018, we are distributing a pilot run of 1,000 ceramic filters with injection-molded universal adapters to trusted partners throughout Mexico. With this feedback, we hope to have a finalized adapter ready for production by the end of the year. To better meet emergency demand, we are exploring methods for scaling ceramic filter manufacture and working on deciding whether to keep production in-house or outsource. Over the next few months, we plan to build a series of refillable cartridge prototypes. We would love to get a finalized Aguadapt to market by the end of 2019!
The Caminos de Agua ceramic filter is certified for drinking water by COFEPRIS, the Mexican Commission for Protection against Sanitary Risks. In 2017 and 2018, our filter was chosen to be the design prompt for the Society of Public Health Engineers (SoPHE) Young Engineers Challenge Award in the UK.