Development and Implementation of the Bring Your Own Water Treatment System in Dense, Rural, and Mountainous Rwandan Communities

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Gold, Maximilian; Thomas, Evan A.; Byyny, Richard L.; Habanabakize, Jean Pierre
Rwanda -- Water -- Purification; Engineers Without Borders USA; Water supply -- Developing countries; Water -- Purification -- Equipment and supplies; Public health -- Rwanda; Systems Engineering
article description
Over a billion people in the world lack access to safe drinking water1. While numerous technological, medical, and educational solutions have been implemented for the benefit of disadvantaged communities, there is no 'magic bullet'. Instead, development agencies must partner directly with these communities to address their public health needs through appropriate technology solutions, backed up by education and assessment. The "Bring Your Own Water (BYOW) Treatment System" developed by the Engineers Without Borders-USA chapters at the University of Colorado at Boulder Chapter (EWB-CU) and the Johnson Space Center (EWB-JSC) is uniquely designed to address the water treatment requirements of two poor and overpopulated Rwandan communities. The BYOW system consists of a gravity-fed roughing filter, rapid sand filter, and solar-powered ultraviolet irradiation system. The BYOW system treats water collected in containers by local residents from any contaminated or suspect source. A key component is a self-filling tank for backwashing of the filter. The system treats water at a rate of approximately 10 liters per minute, and can provide up to 5,000 liters of treated water per day. The BYOW system performed successfully in long term tests in Houston, Texas. Activated sludge collected from a municipal sewage plant (over 70 NTU turbidity, 3,000 CFU/ml E. Coli) was introduced as input. The BYOW-treated effluent water was significantly cleaner (less than one NTU, 0-2 CFU/ml E. Coli). A system installed in Muramba in 2006 was well accepted by users. A second iteration with significant improvements was installed in Mugonero in 2007. After two months of community testing, water quality results indicate that rainwater passed through the Mugonero BYOW system was reduced from up to 60 CFUs/ml coliform bacteria and up to 4.5 NTU turbidity to zero CFUs/ml and less than 2.25 NTU. The BYOW system has the potential to be replicated around the world where communities have similar water treatment requirements, and no available treatment infrastructure or surplus energy resources.