file under: Middle East/Africa, Water, Water Reuse

Safer Water Within Reach

Schultz and CummingsChris Schulz and Joanna Cummings accepted a $10,000 Global Challenge Award in MIT’s IDEAS Competition for the Kosim Water Keg project.

In arid Northern Ghana, rainwater is collected in “dug outs”―muddy holes in the ground―and stored in large clay storage vessels for drinking, cooking and washing. Most families have no way of treating the dirty water, which can carry bacteria and disease.

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. 

In areas that lack resources and sanitation, these practices are common and pose
an ongoing threat to public health. To address the problem, Chris Schulz, CDM Smith senior vice president, partnered with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) master’s student Joanna Cummings and MIT senior lecturer Susan Murcott to develop a new type of household water treatment and storage system for people living in developing countries.

With funding from CDM Smith’s research and development program, the team designed a simple, portable treatment system based on the traditional ceramic pot filters already used in more than 30 developing countries worldwide. Schulz and Cummings field tested the system, the Kosim Water Keg, in Ghana this year.

ceramic drinking water filtration kegChris Schulz is partnering with Denver Water for lab testing of the Kosim Water Keg, which safely and efficiently filters water for household use in developing countries.

The Kosim Water Keg—using the word meaning “the best water” in Dagbani, a Northern Ghana tribal language—combines two ceramic pot filters to form a sealed keg, which is placed in the larger clay storage vessel owned by most Ghanaians. The keg reverses the direction of flow compared to pot filters; dirty water is poured into the storage vessel and clean water is stored inside the sealed keg.

Water constantly filters into the keg's clean interior and a 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, with twice the filter area and the additional depth of water inside the storage vessel, the keg works faster than traditional pot filters—up to 12 litres per hour, as opposed to 1 to 3 litres per hour—to provide the same level of treatment.

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. The team is excited to finalize design, complete laboratory and field testing, and market the Kosim Water Keg through existing ceramic pot filter factories operating in Africa, Asia and Latin America.”