Did you know that in the Philippines, current statistics from the NSO or National Statistics Office show that 20 per cent of our population have no access to potable water, 432 municipalities have less than 50% service coverage (waterless municipalities), and about 6,000 premature deaths a year are caused by water-borne diseases?

By Violy Balaoing Conoza, with reports from J. Celorico, D. Gotis, and C. Candelaria

And we are not alone in this situation for many people in various parts of the world have to contend with problems of water scarcity, water pollution, and accessibility to potable drinking water despite the fact that the earth is made up of over 70 percent water.

A directive from DOST (Department of Science and Technology) Secretary Mario G. Montejo could help address this scenario. He instructed all DOST regional offices and the ITDI (Industrial Technology Development Institute) to cooperate and roll out nationwide the DOST-developed ceramic water filter.

The project is aimed at addressing problems related to the increasing number of households having no access to potable water, especially those in the far-flung areas of the country. Over time, this project could significantly contribute in attaining the Philippine Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of increasing the country’s accessibility rate to potable water of 82.9% in 2007 to 86.6% in 2016.

To speed up the rolling out of the technology, 10,000 pieces of candle-type ceramic water filters will be produced. “We sought the cooperation of the LGUs, NGOs, and pottery owners who are now our partners in implementing this project,” ITDI Director, Dr. Almanzor said. Communities with limited access to potable drinking water will be the beneficiaries. The project is spearheaded by DOST Region 1 and the ITDI with the support of all DOST regional offices.

Reports say that water-borne diseases (e.g., diarrhea and dysentery) are often caused by contaminants such as microorganisms and particulates (solid particles) present in tap and ground water. Often, to avoid contaminated water, people are forced to buy commercially sold bottled water, which adds to their expenses and burdens an already very tight budget.

To address these concerns, the DOST through the ITDI developed a ceramic-based water filter that can remove microbial/particulate contaminants in drinking water and is suitable for home use. Three models were developed: two pottype ceramic water filters of 6.5 and 1.5 L capacity, and the latest edition, the candle-type water filter.

“Made from red clay, we added nano (minute) antimicrobial agents that can eliminate water-borne microorganisms,” said supervising science research specialist and lead researcher Josefina Celorico.

The ceramic filter is placed in a plastic container and provided with a faucet at the bottom for the
filtered water. The ceramic filters are easy to install and maintain, and reasonably priced. According to Celorico, production cost per piece for the candle type water filter is Php80; the filters in plastic containers cost about Php190. “At this point, we established the ceramic filters’ flow rate at 2-3 liters (L)/hour,” she added.

The developed water filters can purify tap water, deep well water, and raw water (from ponds and springs), making it possible to have safe, potable drinking water readily available and accessible even in remote areas. The filtered water also passed the Philippine National Standard (PNS) for drinking water in both tests/counts for Coliform and Escherichia coli, the most common water borne disease-causing microorganisms.

The ceramic water filters have also undergone field testing at NHA households in Muntinlupa City and Cagayan de Oro City, and positive feedback was obtained. People who used them said the water could be used for cooking, that the filtered water tasted good, that they saved the money they usually spent on bottled water, and that it was easy to use, as they encountered few problems. Some noted that they had to be careful in using and cleaning the filters.

As of this writing, rollout activities in the regions are underway. Clay samples from all regions are being tested to find the most suitable material for the water filters.

Consultation meetings with and assessment of interested or possible adopters have already started. Promising clay materials that passed the physical property tests (water absorption, porosity, shrinkage, bulk density, temperature, and flow rate) for ceramic water filters include those from Regions 1 (Ilocos Sur), III (Tarlac and Aurora), V (Camarines Sur and Sorsogon), VIII (Leyte, Aklan), X (Cagayan de Oro), and XII (South Cotabato). Testing is still ongoing in other regions.

Last June, a training session on the manufacture of the filters using Tarlac clay was conducted at the DOST Region 3 office in Arayat, Pampanga, during which 250 filters of 1.5 liter capacity were produced. The finished products will be distributed to identified beneficiaries in the region. Meanwhile, a Memorandum of Agreement has been forged with a possible technology adopter in Cagayan de Oro City, while another potential adopter in Vigan, Ilocos Sur has a kiln being rehabilitated.

Those who are interested in the filters may contact:

• Dr. Nuna E. Almazor, Director, ITDI, DOST Compound, General Santos Avenue, Bicutan, Taguig City; telephone (02) 837-2071 to 82 local 2215; telefax (02) 837-3167; or email nealmanzor@dost.gov.ph.

• Director Elsa Chan, DOST Regional Office No. 1, Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University, CET Campus, San Fernando, La Union; telefax (072) 700-2372; email elrechan@dost.gov.ph.

• The nearest DOST regional/provincial office.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s October 2014 issue.