zero waste drinking water my vegan experiment

In Cambodia, like many places in South East Asia, do not have access to safe clean drinking water. When I stayed on Koh Rong we depended on a ferry arriving every evening to bring big 15l barrels of fresh water to the restaurants and dive shops. Unfortunately sometimes the water would not arrive.

Due to the language difficulties between the local Khmer people and us, we would often have to result in sign language to attempt to communicate. We did figure out “tuk” means water.

Once we got our “tuk” it would very quickly run out. With fourty degree weather and scuba diving, at least 5 people using the plastic barrels we quickly needed more. I wondered if there was a better way to make safe, clean drinking water for people. Watch my video here.

During these thought processes, I randomly met Daniel who works with Otres Eco Community. He showed me a ceramic water filter he had been carrying around with him just for this purpose : to help decrease plastic waste and help with safe drinking water.

Resource Development International Cambodia (RDIC)

Resource Development International Cambodia has been making ceramic filters in Cambodia since 2003. By 2007, RDIC had distributed approximately 60,000 filters throughout Cambodia and 24,000 internationally. They have proved effective in reducing exposure of users to contaminated water. RDIC invests time to share its knowledge and approaches with organisations aiming to help developing countries. The technology is simple and with proper training and education the manufacture can be recreated for the basic human need of safe drinking water.

How Ceramic Water Filters Work

The water filter works in three steps.

  1. Physical straining of dirt and bacteria out of the water.
    1. Protozoa, bacteria and helminthes are strained out by the slightly porous clay which has been passed through a kiln changing it chemically.
    2. Pores are added through burn-out material to increase the rate of flow through the pots.
  2. Chemical Straining with silver in the Ceramic acts as a biocide to kill microbes
    1. Silver is applied to the inside and outside of the filter and absorbed into the clay pores. This kills any additional microbes.

Using the Ceramic Filter

The Ceramic Filter is around 30cm in diameter, and holds around 10l. It filters water around 2l every hour, so would be sufficient for a family of four if there is enough rainwater. In Cambodia, the southwest monsoon comes from May-November with majority of the rains falling in September and October. This would require families to plan ahead, collect rainwater during the rainy season and store it in big closed containers for the remainder of the year. If the rain water would run out, it is not recommended to use with well water, as well water in Cambodia has heavy traces of arsenic.

When I move to Cambodia, mid July, I am looking forward to testing how easy this is to use, and how long it lasts. Reading the various information booklets you can find here, it said the ceramic filters have good longevity as the silver is self cleaning. The only cleaning that needs to be done, is a scrubbing brush washing the inside of the ceramic filter once a month or so to remove visible debris.

So this ceramic filter can really be a great benefit for people living in remote areas, the 60,000 units already made and distributed in the first four years of RDIC’s operation have proved to be an efficient, cheap and effective method of ensuring clean water. After all, our ancestors have been using ceramic pots to cook, transport and even filter water for thousands of years!