Dr. David Manz and Humanitarian Aid
Water is essential for the survival of every living creature, and while 70
percent of the earths 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 waterslow sand filtration.
Upon arrival back in Canada, he set out to find a viable solution to a
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
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. Manzs 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
Click here for more information on the
Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology.
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