Potters For Peace, established in Nicaragua in 1986, is a non-profit based in the United States, that works with subsistence potters in Central America to establish factories that produce low-cost ceramic water filters. PFP does not manufacture the filters or operate the facilities where the filters are made, but instead assists their local partners to set up these facilities and offer support in an attempt to preserve local traditions of pottery while increasing incomes and providing access to safe drinking water.
The design for the filters used today was developed in 1981, by Dr. Fernando Mazariegos of the Central American Industrial Research Institute (ICAITI) in Guatemala, whose intent was to create low-cost filters, manufactured locally, that would make bacterially contaminated water potable. These filters would thus be available to the “poorest of the poor”.
As water passes through the ceramic container (picture a clay pot you would use for a house plant), bacteria is trapped and the clean water is able to flow through the pores created in the process of cooking the containers in a kiln. The educational video on their website describes the texture of ceramic like a series of layered chain-link fences, which work to prevent a golf ball (bacteria) from making it to the other side.
Low-cost and Easy to Use
The ceramic containers filter 98% of the bacteria from the water, and to prevent the other 2% of bacteria from leaving the filter, the pots are painted with a solution of colloidal silver, which kills the remaining bacteria through an electrostatic charge.
The filters are not only low-cost, but simple and easy to use, and can provide enough clean water for a family of five every day. The filters require little maintenance, provides clean water without the need for chemicals such as chlorine, and the process of filtration requires no fuel consumption. The ceramic containers are produced locally, and thus work to strengthen livelihoods while providing an affordable way to deliver clean water to communities.
Potters for Peace have factories across Central and South America, East and West Africa, and South East Asia.
For more information on this project go to Potters for Peace. Their website contains resources for others seeking to employ their techniques and practices.
This post was originally published in January 2014.