Healthy Waters: Developing Sustainable Filtration Systems for Better Water

CFPR Associate Professor Dr Tavs Jorgensen and Research Associates Sonny Lightfoot and Rosy Heywood are part of the ‘Healthy Waters’ research cluster created by Professor Darren Reynolds and Professor Chad Staddon. The research is a collaboration between UWE’s Health and Applied Sciences, Geography and Environmental Management departments and CFPR to research better water management under 3 key themes: science, society and design and technology. CFPR are involved in the latter theme by developing sustainable ceramic systems to clean water effectively through biological and direct filtration methods.

Dipping laser cut sponges into terracotta clay slip
Freshly extruded and cut sawdust and clay beads before firing

People and ecosystems require both an adequate quantity of water as well as an adequate quality of water if key development objectives such as health, food security and water security are to be realised. Actions to protect water quality should be embedded in the larger concepts of sustainability, resilience and appropriate technology. There is an urgent need to explore and develop scientific, technological, and societal responses to deteriorating water quality at all scales from cellular to global, but especially at the biophysical and community scales.

The CFPR team’s initial research has been focussed on developing two types of water filter systems: media for biological filtration and ceramic vessels for direct filtration. For the former, the team are working on developing ceramic beads using terracotta clay to be used as media for biological filtration. This method is a sustainable biotechnology used to remediate biological and chemical contaminants within water. Water is pumped through filter columns and after a four-week incubation period the bio film established attaches to the ceramic media. Different filter media properties, including permeability, surface area and porosity, are being tested to determine the effects on the performance of the biofilter.

Smoothing the beads edges process

For direct filtration, the team are developing a method of producing clay pots and components to maximise water filtration efficacy with specific interest in communities in rural Uganda. We are looking at the already existing skills and process of local potter’s to hand building and pit fire water filter, like that of the craft potters in Kisoro Uganda, who currently produce ceramic cooking stoves. The amazing work Potters for Peace have implemented and published around locally made ceramic water filters has been a big inspiration for the research.

If you’d like to know more information or follow the research, there is a Healthy Waters blog which hosts content written by members across the cluster and also, keep an eye on CFPR’s social channels for periodic updates.

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