Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Gravity-fed water filter system

In my final 3 weeks I slept on the floor of a concrete house whilst living in Kampong Kopuron (Kampong means village in Malay) and helping to build a water filter system for the village and the next door village: the first of its kind in the whole of Malaysia! The Raleigh project groups for the 6 weeks previous to my group had concreted the weir in the nearby hills, which was the water source, installed both the filter and storage tanks (which are huge, I do not know how they carried them up to the top of the hill through the jungle!) and began laying the water pipe. We finished the project in 3 weeks, which involved laying the rest of the pipe, sometimes having to pick-axe across a road if the pipe needed to reach a house on the other side.

The main pipe was one inch wide; we then had connector and reducer pipes so that the pipe became ¾ inch closer to the houses and ½ inch when going into someone’s house. This helped ensure adequate water pressure. We then fitted taps in every house in the village, which they could drink straight from, so that they no longer had to trek for an hour to the nearest water fall, or to use the dirty water from their regular tap, which they had to boil or filter for hours. So 10km of pipe and 85 taps later, we had a fantastic opening ceremony.

Raleigh was helped financially by HSBC sponsorship and was working in collaboration with a local NGO called Pakos and also engineers from a company called Tomher. The latter whom designed this version of the system, supplied the parts for free and chose this village to be a ‘model village’ so that hopefully this will encourage other villages to use this system.

I spoke to Frank, the head engineer, who told me a little about the system. The filter system was invented in Scotland in 1812 and by the end of the century, every city in Europe was using it, but as the cities grew with industrialisation, the system was too big and expensive so they stopped being produced. In the 1980s it was reproduced to filter dirty water in Africa by WHO.

The basic idea is that dirty water enters the top of the filter tank and takes around 10 hours to reach the bottom as it filters through layers of sand, gravel and the all-important carbon, which in this case comes from local resources of coconut husk. It is then safe to drink, which has been scientifically proven. It does go through a chlorinator but this is only to kill any bacteria contracted from the inside of the pipes. It enters a very large storage tank, from which pipes go downhill through the jungle to reach Kampongs Kopuron and Bestaria.

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