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Dr. David Manz
 Humanitarian Aid

 Invention Profile:
Biosand Filter

Dr. David Manz and Humanitarian Aid

Water is essential for the survival of every living creature, and while 70 percent of the earth’s surface is covered by it, there remains a daily struggle for more than a billion people to access clean drinking water. This was a problem that stared Albertan Dr. David Manz straight in the face when he was invited to teach environmental engineering in South Africa more than 20 years ago. He found the techniques used to purify local water supplies were not appropriate, either requiring the use of valuable fuels or unfamiliar chemicals. Manz felt these communities would benefit from a traditional method of cleaning water—slow sand filtration. Upon arrival back in Canada, he set out to find a viable solution to a devastating problem.

He presented the challenge to his fourth-year students, asking them to design an inexpensive filter that would be effective in countries with limited resources. The eventual product was nothing more than a garbage can with a faucet in the bottom, but the device worked better than he had expected.

Manz patented his invention and took up an opportunity to travel to Nicaragua to test the filter system. His team of graduate students installed four filters and the response was immediate, people loved it, and the general health of the community improved greatly.

The design, however, needed improvements. Manz went back to the drawing board, this time coming up with a way to make the filter out of concrete, a readily available material in most developing countries. Manz’s team designed a mould and took it back to Nicaragua, training two factories in filter construction. As a result, 60 filters were manufactured and installed, improving water quality and wiping out cholera, a disease spread by contaminated water and food, in two communities.

The non-profit organization Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST) was formed in 2001 to help distribute the technology for humanitarian purposes. With help from grants and charities such as Samaritans Purse there are now 75,000 BioSand Water Filters in over 60 developing countries.

Click here for more information on the Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology.

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