A critical evaluation of the appropriateness of ceramic and biosand filters in rural Cambodia



Murphy, Heather M.

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University of Guelph


The United Nations Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 7 -Ensure Environmental Sustainability contains three key targets, one of which is: "halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation". According to the World Bank, unless significant advances are made in the water and sanitation sector, it is unlikely that Cambodia will meet the MDG target. Household or point of use (POU) water treatment technologies have been identified as successful interventions for providing safe water to rural households. Currently, there are two water treatment technologies that have been widely implemented across Cambodia: ceramic water filters and BioSand filters. Both technologies have proven to reduce diarrheal disease by up to 50%; however, to date there is very little published research that critically evaluates the performance and sustainability of these systems in the field. The goal of the research was to evaluate these technologies in the context of rural Cambodia. The ceramic and BioSand filters are evaluated on their performance in terms of microbiological and chemical quality of the treated water. In addition, one of the objectives was to investigate the factors that contribute to the long term sustainability of these systems in the field, and to identify factors that influence their long term use. The results are used to provide an overall assessment of the appropriateness of these technologies in rural Cambodia and provide recommendations to aid Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and other groups in the decision process for choosing a point of use water treatment technology for a particular source water quality, and circumstance. It was found that these systems are not consistently capable of meeting World Health Organization guidelines for nitrite and the low risk range for ' E.coli'. In addition, key factors that seemed to contribute to technology success were: technology delivery mechanisms, system monitoring, quality control, maintenance practices, health and hygiene impact, sustainability, affordability, and user feedback and satisfaction. Ultimately, this research contributes to the field of household water treatment and will hopefully aid NGOs and government agencies to make more informed decisions regarding the implementation of these technologies around the world.



Cambodia, ceramic filters, biosand filters, sustainability, decision processes