file under: Middle East/Africa, Water

CDM Smith's Chris Schulz Leads MIT Award-Winning Research

Ceramic Pot Filters Offer a Safe Water Household Treatment and Storage System for Developing Countries

June 02, 2011

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts—The Kosim Water Keg project received a $10,000 Global Challenge Award in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) IDEAS Competition, which encourages student teams to develop and implement projects that make a positive change in the world. Chris Schulz, CDM Smith senior vice president, partnered with MIT master’s student Joanna Cummings and MIT senior lecturer Susan Murcott to develop a household water treatment and safe storage system for people living in poor villages in developing countries.

 
It is very satisfying to work on such important research that will ultimately improve overall public health protection and save the lives of small children in developing countries around the world. 

The project—which was implemented with funding from CDM Smith’s research and development program—uses the Kosim Water Keg to safely and efficiently filter water. Field tested by Schulz and Cummings in Ghana in January of this year, the Kosim Water Keg technology is based on traditional ceramic pot filters, which are being produced in 20 developing countries worldwide.

In Northern Ghana, a common water source is rainwater collected in exposed muddy holes, or dug outs. The water is filled with clay particles and bacteria. Chlorine alone is unable to disinfect the water. Ceramic pot filters—only supplied to a few homes—are used with plastic buckets that heat the water and ultimately break when exposed to sunlight and warm temperatures. In addition, the filters need to be refilled every few hours and filtering rates are slow, which discourages families from using them consistently. Most families have no means of household water treatment and simply store the dirty water in traditional clay storage vessels for drinking, cooking and washing purposes.

The Kosim Water Keg—named using the word meaning “the best water” in Dagbani, a Northern Ghana tribal language—combines two clay pot filters to form a sealed keg, which is then placed in the larger clay storage vessel owned by most Ghanaians. Water constantly filters into the keg's clean interior and a siphon or plastic hand pump extracts the clean water. Because the water is stored in clay containers, it stays cool and the sealed keg protects the filtered water from recontamination. In addition, twice the filter area and the additional depth of water inside the storage vessel allows the keg to filter faster—up to 11 litres per hour, as opposed to 1 to 3 litres per hour—with no deterioration of treatment removal efficiency.

According to Schulz, “It is very satisfying to work on such important research that will ultimately improve overall public health protection and save the lives of small children in developing countries around the world. The team is excited to take the project to the next steps by finalizing design, completing laboratory and field testing, and marketing the Kosim Water Keg.”

Schulz has more than 25 years of experience in the planning and design of drinking water treatment facilities worldwide. He holds 11 U.S. patents on water treatment technologies. Cummings earned her master’s degree in environmental and water quality engineering and completed her master’s thesis on the Kosim Water Keg project in May this year.

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