Fluoride Removal Research: We are Now Closer than ever to a Fluoride Filter System

As many of our supporters know, the Independence Aquifer region in Central Mexico where Caminos de Agua works is in a permanent state of decline and contaminated with dangerous levels of naturally-occurring arsenic and fluoride, which is leading to irreversible health impacts on long-term users. Our rainwater harvesting work represents our ongoing projects that directly impact communities suffering from these issues, and we continue to expand and grow our rainwater program. However, rainwater harvesting has a large upfront cost and requires a lot of labor – up to 200 hours per system in most cases – and there are tens of thousands of people in this region alone that need immediate solutions.

Because of this urgent need, Caminos de Agua has also been experimenting with biochar-based filtration media to remove arsenic and fluoride. The media can be “plugged-in” to a simple and inexpensive filter unit and changed out easily when needed. To learn about our work with arsenic medias, read Martijn’s report here.

Our work on fluoride remediation is much further along than our arsenic research and is nearly ready for small-scale pilots in real community homes. Our fluoride system utilizes “bone char” – biochar made from animal bones – and has proven highly effective in removing fluoride from contaminated groundwater. Fluoride is aggressively “attracted” to calcium, which is why it is most often found bound with calcium in nature. That is also why fluoride accumulates in the teeth, bones, and even the pineal gland in the brain – all areas high in calcium. Thus, the high calcium carbonate content in bone char targets fluoride by exchanging the calcium ions in the bone char with the fluoride ions in the contaminated water – essentially locking up the fluoride in the bone char and not allowing it to pass through into the drinking water supply. This all happens through a combination of chemical adsorption processes known as ion-exchange and contact precipitation.

Despite the complex chemistry happening in the filter, the bone char itself is actually very easy and inexpensive to make. The filter system is also very simple by design; it is made up of two columns – set in-line –  both filled with the bone char filter media. This configuration – known as “lead-lag” – allows us to better take advantage of the bone char and extend its useful life by upwards of 50% longer.  

Our current research on fluoride adsorption was led by Engineers Without Borders-UK (EWB-UK) fellow, Sarah Mitchell, under the supervision of Caminos de Agua’s Research and Technology Coordinator, Aaron Krupp. Sarah built four full-scale prototypes as well as a giant pre-filter (made up of six ceramic water filters), which is used to clean the water of organic material and debris before entering the fluoride filters. The water used in the trials came from a community called Exhancienda de Jesús, which has some of the highest fluoride concentrations in the region (10 - 12 times above the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation). The water was then diluted with San Miguel tap water to reduce the starting fluoride level to a more representative level for the region (a little more than 5 times above the WHO limit). It was important for us to use community water to show that the system works in real-world conditions and not simply under lab conditions.

It total, Sarah ran four full trials on the bone char media, with the Caminos de Agua Tech Team helping to take and run samples. The filters ran at a standard flow-rate for a household, producing roughly 25L of clean drinking water/day. The trials ran for weeks at a time and samples were taken three times a day – 8am, 4pm, and midnight.

So, the Caminos de Agua Tech Team literally sampled the filters around the clock as well as even took turns sleeping at the lab to not miss a beat. Endless thanks to Sarah, Martijn, Aaron and now Simona, Sarah’s EWB-UK replacement, for your personal sacrifice in bringing a fluoride and arsenic filter to fruition. There could not be a more dedicated team. 

As we say goodbye to Sarah Mitchell and welcome Simona Dossi to take the reigns on fluoride remediation, we are now closer than ever to a fluoride filter system. The research and piloting continues to move forward with the goal of achieving a field-deployable treatment system for fluoride and arsenic within the next 12 months.

If you would like to learn more about the current state of our fluoride remediation research, please read our latest report, which explains the bone char production method, the filter design, the prototype set-ups, and the data from the last 5 fluoride remediation trials.  You can find the report here.

 

 

Combatting excessive arsenic concentrations in groundwater

Personal message from researcher, Martijn:

Growing up in The Netherlands I’m used to turning on the tap to get potable drinking water without even thinking about how the water was pumped from the ground, treated, and transported to my home. It’s just there. Working and living in Mexico really put things in perspective for me. Visiting the beautiful communities in the rural area of Guanajuato and seeing how blackened some of the kids teeth are, seeing those teeth when they smile, gave me the emotional drive to work on this project and ones like this. Sometimes the truth hurts, especially when the truth is that your family’s only available drinking water source is contaminated groundwater. Mexico taught me a lot, inspired me for a lifetime, and been an incredible and special time. I wish the people I met in the communities all the best, and feel grateful to have worked alongside the Caminos de Agua team and to have had the chance to contribute a little to their amazing life-changing work. As I’m on the point of leaving, I feel sad but happy at the same time as I’m looking forward to see what the future holds and what change this research and the work of Caminos de Agua will bring to the people. Agua para la vida.

Saludos,

Martijn

 

Caminos de Agua recently intensified its research on how to remove arsenic from heavily polluted groundwater. Martijn Eikelboom, our Dutch volunteer working on his thesis research, began a new round of experiments in March and is finalizing his research this week. His research’s main aim is to develop the low-cost material capable of removing arsenic directly from our local drinking water. Arsenic concentrations of up to 80 µg/L have been measured in drinking water in rural areas around San Miguel de Allende – 8 times above the WHO guideline limit of 10 µg/L. Contaminants like arsenic can be removed using appropriate techniques like reverse osmosis or other technologies. However, these technologies are expensive and are therefore less accessible to communities in the rural area of Guanajuato. Martijn began his research by working on preparing and testing different types of wood-char suitable to remove arsenic. His research involves preparing wood-chars appropriate for arsenic adsorption and testing them in Caminos de Agua's lab.

The first phase of Martijn’s study worked with the material suitable we plan to use as the base of the filter medium: wood-char. To make the wood-char, scrap wood was burned in a biomass gasifier without oxygen. Because of the limited amount of oxygen inside of the biomass gasifier, the wood is charred and transformed into a porous filter medium. Initial laboratory experiments demonstrated that the wood-char itself does not effectively remove arsenic in the desired maximum concentration. To improve the arsenic removal efficiency, the wood-char needed to be impregnated with substances which have a high affinity to bind with arsenic. Martijn proceeded to dive into existing research literature and selected three promising iron compounds to test: FeCl3, Fe2O3, Fe(OH)3. All three are highly recommended to use for arsenic removal. Martijn tested the three different common iron compounds impregnated to wood-char in different ways to gain insight in how the wood-char could be best modified.

Seven different combinations of modified wood-char were made and their adsorption capacity were tested at the Caminos de Agua laboratory. The adsorption capacity is the amount of arsenic a filter medium can bind per gram of filter medium and serves as a good criteria to compare filter media. Martijn set the study’s goal: a filter medium that lasts for 21 days, treating 25 liters of water every day to serve a household of five. To reach this goal, the filter medium should have an adsorption capacity of 300 µg arsenic per gram of wood-char. The different filter media were than compared to this “gold standard.”

After 400 tests, long days, and a lot of ups and downs, Martijn succeeded to create a filter medium capable of reaching an adsorption capacity of 60 µg arsenic per gram of wood-char. As Martijn’s time here is limited to three months, the study will continue with a new researcher at Caminos de Agua. Although the “gold standard” has not been reached, Caminos de Agua now has a lot of insight in how wood-char can and should be modified and will continue research to create the filter that will combat the excessive arsenic concentration in drinking water.

THANKS TO DR. MERCOLA FOR CONTINUING TO SUPPORT OUR EFFORTS IN MEXICO

Mercola has recently recognized the work of Caminos de Agua. Many thanks to Dr. Mercola for continuing to support our efforts in Mexico, especially at this time where it's needed most. Find the full article below.

 

 

 

Caminos de Agua: Shaping the Future of Sustainable, Healthy and Safe Drinking Water

Caminos de Agua has already helped secure clean water for over 14,000 people in Mexico – but their work is far from over. Learn about the innovative solutions that this non-profit organization provides and how they’re leading the effort to ensure that every family in Mexico has access to safe, healthy and sustainable drinking water.

 By Dr. Mercola

Water is a cornerstone of optimal health – you drink it, bathe with it and use it for cooking and cleaning. No human being can live without water. In most developed countries, people usually enjoy the luxury of having an accessible water supply in their home. All they need to do is turn on the tap.

Sadly, not everyone enjoys this convenience, and believe it or not, there are some communities around the world who struggle to have access to clean water every single day.

Mexico Is in the Heart of a Water Crisis

Lack of safe and clean water is a constant problem in many parts of the world, and with the growing threat of climate change, the problem just seems to compound.

Mexico has severely felt the harsh effects of this dilemma, particularly, in the Independence Watershed region. Located in Guanajuato State in Central Mexico, the communities in this region have struggled with water scarcity for decades. Because of overexploitation and pollution brought on by large-scale industrial agriculture operations, the state of the Independence Aquifer, which lies just below the Watershed and is the primary water resource of this region, has severely declined.[1]

In order to meet the high demand for water in these communities (there are seven municipalities in the Independence Watershed area), the people began drilling deeper wells, as deep as 200 to 400 meters,[2] at unsustainable rates – puncturing the lower fractured surface of the aquifer, wherein “ancient water,” believed to be anywhere between 10,000 to 35,000 years old,[3] lies.

But aside from being characteristically old, this type of water is also contaminated with high amounts of naturally occurring metals and minerals, particularly fluoride and arsenic. The levels are said to exceed both national and international safe standards, greatly increasing the people’s risk of health problems, such as dental fluorosis. But this is actually just the tip of the iceberg. According to a New York Times article:[4]

“The signs of tainted water seem apparent. The most visible evidence is the prevalence of dental fluorosis, an illness that blackens teeth. Yet the many complaints of joint pain suggest that some people might have developed a much more severe illness, skeletal fluorosis, which occurs when fluoride accumulates in the bones.”

It’s clear that not only are these rural communities being subject to the struggles of inadequate water, but they’re also suffering from the adverse effects of contaminated water.

Thankfully, a dedicated non-profit organization has stepped up to the challenge of providing clean drinking water to the Independence Watershed area – working hard to improve the lives of the people in these communities.

Caminos de Agua: Heeding the Call for Safe, Healthy and Sustainable Water

Based in San Miguel de Allende, in Guanajuato State, Caminos de Agua, formerly known as CATIS-Mexico, aims to provide practical yet sustainable water solutions that can help people live more prosperous lives while preserving the planet’s resources.

The organization works closely with economically limited countries to innovate and implement open-source solutions that will help develop people’s health, build up their economies and maintain sustainability in their environment.

Caminos de Agua stresses that everyone should have access to drinking water that’s not just safe and healthy, but also sustainable – something that people in rural Guanajuato communities, as well as in other parts of Mexico and the world, do not have – at least, not freely, easily or cheaply.

In Guanajuato, for example, families in rural areas spend over $24 pesos (equivalent to 2 U.S. dollars) just to get 20 liters of water per day. Considering that the world’s poorest people only earn less than 2 US dollars per day,[5] most of them have to relinquish this necessity in order to make ends meet.

In fact, according to a report from the World Health Organization and UNICEF, 1.1 billion people do not use drinking water from improved sources, while 2.6 billion lack access to basic sanitation methods.[6]

Caminos de Agua believes that drinking water, free of pathogens, bacteria and other toxic pollutants, is a basic human right that should be affordable and accessible to everyone. For this reason, they came up with several innovative water solutions, which are primarily focused on small-scale, household systems. When properly implemented, these can provide access to safe, healthy and sustainable drinking water.

Caminos de Agua provides capacity training and technical assistance to the people in rural villages and communities and urban locals. They also closely partner with other grassroots organizations in order to create long-term, sustainable water solutions. According to their website:[7]

“Our current work includes production and distribution of our certified ceramic water filters for eliminating water-borne pathogens, community-based installations of rainwater harvesting systems, and installation of biochar treatment systems.”

Ceramic Water Filters and Biochar Treatment Promote Safe and Toxin-Free Drinking Water

One of the major projects that Caminos de Agua has successfully worked on is the development of specially designed ceramic filters, which provide clean water for drinking, free of bacterial contamination. The filters are produced using a simple hand mold and are made from locally available clay and burn-out material (such as waste sawdust). These filters are then fired in a sustainable brick-kiln and then treated with a colloidal silver solution to kill pathogens.

The ceramic filters provide each household with 24 liters of water per day, and can last for two to three years. They are lighter and easier to transport than typical pot-filters, and are less likely to crack. They also make potable water 100 times less expensive, reducing the cost down to $0.001 per liter.

But Caminos de Agua does not just intend to develop these filters – they provide training and resources for local communities as well, so they can set up their own kilns and produce their own filters, so that sustainable micro-businesses can thrive.[8]

Along with developing ceramic filters, the organization is also working to use biochar and bone char as a sustainable way to eliminate dangerous pathogens and chemicals like arsenic and fluoride. Just like charcoal, biochar is produced by heating biomass in an oxygen-starved environment. One co-product that can be obtained from it is usable bioenergy.

As mentioned above, fluoride is one of the leading threats that come with the unstable water supply in these communities. Caminos de Agua’s Executive Director Dylan Terrell is now collaborating with Aqueous Solutions to research the potential of biochar and bone char as a low-cost media for fluoride removal.[9] Once this solution has been set in place, the risk that this damaging pathogen imposes can be severely reduced. 

Rainwater Harvesting Systems Help Reduce Burden on the Aquifer

Rainwater harvesting is one of the primary solutions that the organization promotes, as doing this means that water is no longer extracted from the aquifer and the natural hydraulic cycle is not interrupted.

San Luis de la Paz, a municipality with a large town and several different outlying communities, is one of the areas that Caminos de Agua has recently provided with rainwater harvesting systems. Located near San Miguel de Allende, the area has one of the worst water situations in the region, with some families only getting 200 liters once or twice per month. Some residents have access to water, but their sources are severely tainted with toxic contaminants.

In November 2016, Caminos de Agua helped provided trainings on the construction of rainwater harvesting systems in San Luis de la Paz. Participants from three communities attended a workshop to learn how to build rainwater harvesting systems and cisterns, and then afterwards, went back to their homes to share the knowledge with their friends and neighbors.[10]

‘Cycling’ for Water: Another Simple yet Innovative Approach

In La Onza, the approach that Caminos de Agua took was different. In 2015, the organization, in partnership with a team from Engineers Without Borders UK, supported the community in building a rainwater harvesting system at the local kindergarten and elementary schools. But task of providing rainwater systems to everyone is too great, and the residents’ water requirements remain high.

Therefore, their team designed a special pump to obtain water from the community’s shallow well. Designed by Aaron Krupp and other Caminos de Agua staff, it uses the same principles as a rope pump, but is powered either by hand or by bicycle, and eliminates the need to throw a bucket into the well and then manually (and dangerously) pull it up.

The levels of fluoride and arsenic are substantially lower in the shallow well. By adding rainwater collected from the cisterns, the volume of safe water available to the community will be increased.

“By following Caminos de Agua’s dilution guidelines, the community can not only keep the mixed water below contamination limits for dangerous minerals but can actually obtain water with a mineral balance ideal for human consumption, as recommended by the World Health Organization,” according to the organization’s website.[11]

Caminos de Agua Shows That Small Ripples Can Create Big Waves of Success

As of June 2017, Caminos de Agua has implemented 65 projects, which has directly helped almost 14,000 people, giving them over 1.4 million liters of rain water.[12]

They’ve also emboldened communities to stand up and act to have access to clean water. Community members have contributed over 10,000 hours of volunteer labor to help set up these projects[13] – and these numbers continue to grow.

Terrell called 2016 their “most impactful” year to date, as they’ve reached significant milestones, such as providing ceramic filters to over 600 new families, installing 43 new rainwater harvesting system and reaching tens of thousands of new people with their water monitoring and mapping program.

“Indeed, this truly was a watershed year for the organization. With our new name and narrowed focus, our work had a greater impact on safe, healthy, and sustainable water supplies, and I am more proud than ever of our accomplishments,” Terrell said in their 2016 Year in Review report.[14]

The impact that Caminos de Agua is making on the Independence Watershed region is definitely an inspiring and heartwarming evidence that, by working together and being united under once cause – in this case, the call for clean, healthy and sustainable drinking water – we   can achieve many great things.

But their work is far from over.

Donate to Caminos de Agua Today and Help Provide Clean Drinking Water to Thousands (or Millions) More

Caminos de Agua relies on people’s support to continue expanding their program. According to Terrell, donations make up roughly 25 percent of their annual operating budget.[15]

You can visit Camino de Agua’s website to learn more about their organization’s advocacies and success stories, and access their water tools and resources. Personally, I feel truly honored and excited to be part of this noble project. Seeing the success that this organization is making, especially in Mexico, is completely overwhelming.

I urge you to please, please, donate to this worthwhile cause. Any amount, no matter how large or small, would surely make an impact, and guarantee one more person or one more family another day’s supply of healthy, clean and sustainable drinking water.

 

[1] Caminos de Agua, Where We Work

[2] Youtube, Water, Justice & Sustainability in Rural Guanajuato | Dylan Terrell | TEDxSanMigueldeAllende

[3] New York Times, May 19, 2016

[4] See ref 3

[5] WHO, Poverty

[6] WHO and UNICEF, Meeting the MDG Drinking Water and Sanitation Target: The Urban and Rural Challenge of the Decade, 2006

[7] Caminos de Agua, What We Do

[8] Caminos de Agua, Ceramic Water Filters

[9] Caminos de Agua, What Is Biochar?

[10] Caminos de Agua, Rainwater Harvesting Project: Capacity Training In San Luis De La Paz, November 17, 2016

[11] Caminos de Agua, Cycling For Water In The La Onza Community, April 26, 2017

[12] Caminos De Agua, Our Work - Direct Impact Projects Throughout The Region & Beyond

[13] Caminos de Agua, Year in Review - 2016

[14] Caminos de Agua, Celebrate With Us: Year In Review - 2016

[15] See ref 14

 

 

Local high schoolers get their hands dirty learning about water issues

Caminos de Agua recently completed a two-week educational module with 99 students at CBTis No. 60 School in San Miguel de Allende. The program included theoretical and practical components. First, the students spent three days in the classroom learning about local water issues. This multidisciplinary module comprised of lectures with practical case studies and an engaging play performed by local theatre group, Teatro Despierto. During the second week, the students constructed a rainwater harvesting cistern next to the classroom. By the final day, many of the students felt motivated to spread the word on the issues they had learned about and driven to work towards finding solutions.

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Warka Water designs and Caminos de Agua

This year began with good news: staff member Casilda Barajas was awarded a grant by the Popular Cultures of Guanajuato Program (PACMYC 2017) to pilot the construction of a tower woven with local natural fibers that can function as a method of capturing air water, specifically dew. She proposed to develop the project with her group "Arqui-textures, from Basket to Architecture" in collaboration with Caminos de Agua and the designer and ceramist, director of Azul Cobalto, Oscar Vazquez Alanis. During the month of February they held three sessions to discuss the project and take the first steps. A station was designed, constructed and installed on the site to measure the viability of the water tower at a height of 3 meters. Different meshes were mounted as capturing surfaces. We hope to obtain results of the monitoring that is being done. Based on the design of "Warka Water" the aim of this work is to provide the community with a creative and sculptural alternative that will inspire to harvest every last drop of clean water for drinking. We will keep on reporting. Stay connected.

1 Million Liters of Safe & Healthy Drinking Water in 2017!

During our last update in late November 2016, we were just finishing a capacity training in a small rural community where we built a 12,000-liter rainwater harvesting system over the course of a week with local community members.  From that point, we continued building additional systems in the communities of Arenal, La Escoba, and Llano Verde.  By early December, all six 12,000-liter systems were finished – providing healthy and safe drinking water to dozens of families in....

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70,000+ pesos raised for safe, healthy & sustainable water with Naomi Klein

Caminos de Agua was privileged to be the beneficiary of the San Miguel de Allende Writers' Conference "Write for Change" event, featuring author Naomi Klein this past Sunday.

Caminos de Agua Board member Rob Lerner presented our work before Naomi's keynote address. Naomi inspired all of us as she wove together reflections from three of her books, No Logo, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, and her latest, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate. She wrapped up the question and answer period with a reminder to act locally and to support our work.

As audience members spilled out of the hall, volunteers awaited with empty water carboys with filters. Those carboys quickly filled up with pesos and dollars for a total of over 70,000 pesos. That is equal to SEVEN rainwater harvesting cisterns or almost 150 ceramic water filters systems. The funds will be divided in building rainwater systems, ceramic water filter system distribution to social projects and our research in fluoride and arsenic removal with biochar.

Once again, our thanks to our crew of volunteers, Rob Lerner, Naomi Klein, the SMA Writers' Conference, and last but not least, the hundreds donated on Sunday.

Sarah and Daniela with two of the donation-filled carboys after the event.

Sarah and Daniela with two of the donation-filled carboys after the event.

Naomi Klein signs "one last book" with Dylan Terrell.

Naomi Klein signs "one last book" with Dylan Terrell.

Board member Rob Lerner and volunteer Daniela del Villar after the event.

Board member Rob Lerner and volunteer Daniela del Villar after the event.

Work Retreat

On February 7, 2017 the Caminos de Agua Staff had a staff retreat to review our goals and work objectives for the current year. Jenn and Dylan served as facilitators for this  participative experience that gave us structure and vision, setting priorities, organizing short-, medium- and long-term activities. One aspect was to look at personal and life goals of all work team members to achieve better life-work balance. Together, we looked to weave personal goals with our common organizational goal: safe, healthy and sustainable water for all. We set a goal of a million liters of rainwater catchment, the development of an integrative educational course and to increase ceramic water filtration system distribution as well as to pilot our first systems to remove fluoride and arsenic.

Rainwater Harvesting Calculator Launched!

Front screen

Front screen

Many people ask us, “How much rainwater do I really need to collect?” 

Each household’s water use is  different. It depends on family size, location, and regular activities. People use rainwater for various purposes: some only for drinking, others for washing their car, watering their plants, or feeding their animals. Water use varies greatly around the globe. 

Example results page: green indicates that you more than sufficient roof space to collect all your household's essential water.

Example results page: green indicates that you more than sufficient roof space to collect all your household's essential water.

The size of your collection tank(s) or cistern(s) also depend(s) not only on your use, but also on your roof's area and your regional rainfall. 

Caminos de Agua has been working on general regional recommendations. Our “generic” guideline for capturing rainwater for drinking and cooking in Guanajuato's Independence Watershed is four square meters of roof area and eight hundred liters of storage capacity per person in the household.

There are many calculators online already. When we evaluated them, we deemed many too simple,  too complex or too specific. (These examples may work for you, so don't take our word for it, check them out.)

Example results page: red warns you that your roof isn't large enough to collect all your essential water!

Example results page: red warns you that your roof isn't large enough to collect all your essential water!

We thought that we could create something that better served our local population’s needs. We are now launching our calculator that is regionally-relevant, globally applicable, and easy-to-use to help households and communities size their rainwater harvesting systems. This is a pilot and we welcome comments and suggestions. 

If you live in the Independence Watershed region, you need only provide your household size, roof area, roof type, and the location of your home: we've integrated local data into the calculator. If you live elsewhere, you will need to supply your monthly rainfall data, which can often be obtained through regional or federal agencies or here, for many supported countries. Check here for data for many areas. 

The results tell you how much water your current house can collect and how to store it. It also calculates the minimum roof area and cistern size your household would need to meet its essential water need (the amount required for drinking and cooking every day, during an average year). Just remember, although rainwater is free of almost all contaminants, you still need to treat the biological contaminants (bacteria, viruses, etc.) for it to be safe!

Again, if you have any questions or comments, contact us! If you are an NGO or rainwater harvesting organization and you have regional rainfall data that you'd like included, please let us know. 

 

 

Ceramic Water Filters - 3.5 Years Later

After three and a half years of continued use in community homes, we recently had the opportunity to return to our first pilot communities - Juan Gonzalez and La Cienega - where we installed 68 filter systems in community homes and schools.  We were able to change out some of the systems to see if they were still working at the same efficiency as they did when they were first installed.  In total, 15 systems were taken back to the Caminos site for follow-up testing by Engineers Without Borders-UK placement, Sarah Mitchell.

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Research & Technology Update: January 2017

Sarah puts together a six-piece biological ceramic- filter for the column-testing setup. 

Sarah puts together a six-piece biological ceramic- filter for the column-testing setup. 

Billy, Saul, and Sarah build the biomas dryer. 

Billy, Saul, and Sarah build the biomas dryer. 

A 3.5 year old ceramic filter – still treats dangerous water to safe levels! 

A 3.5 year old ceramic filter – still treats dangerous water to safe levels! 

 Caminos de Agua (Caminos) has a growing research and development team. Our staff and volunteers are working on various projects from filter development, to rainwater systems, to improvised machinery.

This update highlights a few of our technical projects.

Multi-use Bicycle Pump

In collaboration with El Maíz Más Pequeño, we designed and built a custom-made bicycle stand that can attach to any bicycle to make a “bicibomba” - a bicycle-powered water pump. It can be used to pump water from ground level, for example from a rainwater cistern, to either a filter, a small rooftop cistern, or directly into your home. The bicycle is dual-purpose: it can be used as transportation and as a pump (many bicycles converted to pump are designed solely for that purpose).  The bicycle stand that is used while pumping converts into a rack over the rear wheel. We are now working on a second version of the bicycle pump and will post our finalized, open-source designs once they are complete. Thanks to Maya Pedal for design inspiration!

Carbon Filter Research

To combat the regional arsenic and fluoride contamination, we are developing new carbon filters that can remove these contaminants from drinking water. These filters work together with our existing ceramic filters. To test our filters we are currently constructing our column-testing setup that allows us to run four tests simultaneously.  We are also working on designing a prototype filter system. We will use the column setup to test new materials as we continue our research to improve our filters. The prototype system will soon be deployed in a local community to help us better understand how people use drinking water filters in their day-to-day lives. 

Fun with fans

Our team has recently purchased a couple of fans for other motorized projects. Using an industrial fan and some lumber, we built a biomass dryer for drying wood, bones, and biochar to make our material production processes more consistent. With a standard ceiling fan, we also built a sample tumbler that will let us quickly compare materials for how well they remove fluoride or arsenic from drinking water. With these projects complete, we are gearing up for rapidly making, testing, and improving a variety of cheap, accessible materials.

In other news, we are developing a rainwater calculator that allows people in the region (and around the world) to size their own rainwater harvesting systems. Keep your eyes open for the calculator's upcoming release on the Caminos website.

Ceramic Filter Follow Up Studies

Finally, we recently tested twelve ceramic filters that had been in constant in-home use for the past three and a half years. Despite the filters' pocked and pitted appearances, all twelve continued to make biologically-dangerous water safe for human consumption! We're excited to see how long our ceramic filters remain effective as we continue to monitor our in-use systems. We'll post more about each of these projects as they improve and progress. Thanks for tuning in to January's tech update!

 

 

Celebrate with us: Year in Review ~ 2016

Thanks to people like you, 2016 was our most impactful year to date, and I am happy to share with you our Year in Review Report that highlights some of our major accomplishments.

In preparing this report, I struggled to decide what to highlight and whom to thank.  The lists kept growing and growing, and I was struck by a comment made recently by one of our board members – Rob Lerner – who asked:

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San Luis de la Paz: Six new cisterns to close out 2016!

Caminos de Agua led a training at the end of November for four rural communities in San Luis de la Paz (Llano Verde, Arenal de Arriba, La Escoba, and Arenal de Abajo). Some of these communities have almost no access to water (only 200 liters once or twice a month). Other people in these communities have occasional access to water, but their water source is severely contaminated. Rainwater harvesting combined with any biological...

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