Uganda – Biosand Water Filters

In Uganda we partner with A Rocha Uganda to supply biosand water filters to poor communities in Kampala. As well as providing clean water to each family, each filter saves approximately 0.9 metric tons of CO₂ per year.

We support A Rocha Uganda to provide biosand water filters to families in Kiteezi, a poor community in a northern suburb of Kampala. Before receiving a filter, families participate in a two-day training course. In the course, they build their filter and are taught about how to use and maintain it, and how to improve household hygiene. The filters are made of concrete and filled with varying grades of sand and gravel. Once filled with water, a biofilm layer grows on the top layer of sand. This biofilm contains microorganisms that destroy more than 98% of bacteria. The sand and gravel then further filter the water. You can read more about how these filters work here.

Before we started funding new water filters, we conducted monitoring surveys of over 150 filters that had been in use for between one and 10 years, as well as baseline surveys in households that currently did not have a filter. The monitoring surveys told us how long filters remain in use. Baseline survey data tells us how many people there are in a household, how much water they drink each day, how much fuel they used to use to boil water, and how much they now use. From this, we were able to work out how many metric tons of CO₂ emissions have been avoided by switching to using a filter.

Solivia, filter buddy (left), and family with water filter

Apart from this data on carbon emissions savings, the surveys also demonstrated that filters bring many other benefits, including financial savings as families spend less on fuel for boiling water, health benefits from reducing the impacts of smoke on lungs and eyes, and an improvement in overall health as more people in the extended family have better access to clean water, thus reducing the incidence of diarrhea and other water-borne diseases.

The results of these surveys confirmed that where families were previously using charcoal to boil water for drinking, a filter will save at least 0.9 metric tons of CO₂ emissions per year, as they can now produce safe, clean drinking water without the need to boil it.

Based on this information, we have now funded 735 filters. Each filter saves over 9 metric tons of CO₂ emissions over its lifetime. Our funding for the project includes additional training and a small allowance for neighborhood “Filter Buddies” who support local households, advising them on how to use and take care of their filter, and dealing with problems as they arise. Our funding also covers minor repairs and maintenance costs to ensure that the filters stay in use for many years to come.

How a water filter can change a life…

Najjuma lives with seven other family members in Kabaga village, Kiteezi Parish. The family collects water from a borehole because the community has a limited supply of municipal water. Najjuma’s family received a biosand water filter in early 2018. She attended the training course and made her filter, which was then delivered to the family home by A Rocha Uganda staff.

Having a water filter is important for Najjuma and her family – before they received the filter, the family spent about UGX 10,000 ($2.73) a month on water treatment tablets and UGX 16,000 ($4.44) a month buying charcoal to boil drinking water. Family members often fell ill with diarrhea and stomach aches because of poorly treated water.

The family now filters approximately 5 gallons of water daily for drinking, washing, and cooking. They’ve found that no one in the family has become ill. The household is also now able to save the money they previously spent. Having a water filter means ready access to clean drinking water and also saves time previously spent boiling water.

Najjuma looks after the filter carefully, having been trained by A Rocha Uganda in the methods required to keep the filter working at its best. She tells us, “I’m not scared like I used to be that I will run out of money to buy charcoal.”

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