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Colloidal Silver Solves Water Pollution Problems

By Thuria Ghaleb

Yemen suffers from a chronic and serious water shortage, forcing people to use water regardless of the pollution in it. However, simple pottery water filters impregnated with colloidal silver could be used to reduce the health hazards from water pollution, according to a study discussed in a workshop held on Saturday, June 21 at the Mövenpick Hotel in Sana’a.

The workshop was conducted by the Integrated Water Resources Management Project (IWRM) supported by the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) to discuss the study, which aims to measure the health, economic and social impacts of such pottery water filters over a six month period, starting from January 2008, in four villages in Amran governorate (Zafin in Thula district, Al-Ma’amar and Bait Al-Saeedi in Jabal Eyal Yazeed district, and al-Makna’a in al-Sawd district). 

Abdul-Karim al-Arhabi, Deputy Prime Minister and Minster of Planning and International Cooperation, showed his enthusiasm as the executive manager of the Social Fund for Development (SFD) to technically support private companies who want to produce pottery water filters impregnated with colloidal silver. 

Al-Arhabi said that these household filters help to protect people living in rural areas from hazards and diseases resulting from water pollution. “Yemen faces many problems in supplying its people, especially those in rural areas, with safe and clean drinking water. Such simple techniques can help the government to solve this problem in some areas suffering from water scarcity.”    

The four villages were chosen depending on their remoteness from the provincial capital, less than 50 kilometers from Amran. All of them had just water harvesting tanks as their single source of drinking water. About 200 households across the four villages are recorded as beneficiaries from the study.   

From the very beginning, people in the four villages have been overwhelmingly satisfied with the pottery water filter in terms of water taste, speed of filtering and the amount of filtered water. The study boasts a 98 percent satisfaction rate. 

The study also found that the proportion of people in the chosen villages with normal health standards improved from 15 percent in the first month of using the filter to 63 percent after three months. 

The child diarrhea rate reduced from 64 percent before using the filter to 14 percent after one month and 13 percent after three months of using it, the study found. Adult diarrhea rates reduced from 25 percent before to 0 percent after using the filter for just one month. However, three months later the rate again increased to 17 percent. All quote results relating to diarrhea are based on highly variable statistical indicators.

After suffering high rates of fecal microbes polluting drinking water sources used by the four villages before the use of pottery filter, now the home water filter houses have become free of pollution just one month after using the filter. It also remained free of pollution even three months later as shown by the laboratory examinations for filtered water.  

It is also found that household spending on diarrhea cure reduced from 53 percent before to 7 percent after one month, and 9 percent after three months of using the water filter though the average cost to cure diarrhea before using the filter was YR 10,000 per family per month. 

The study was conducted by Khaled al-Muaeyad, co-professor of Public Health and Micro-organisms at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences in Sana’a University; Bilqis Zabarah, assistant professor of Chemistry and Physics at the Water and Environment Center in Sana’a University.   

The study finally recommended speeding up the provision of the pottery filter on a commercial scale to other Yemeni rural areas which suffer similar water scarcity and pollution issues.  

In 2007 GTZ-IWRM of the Yemeni-German Water Sector Program improved Yemeni pottery to enable the production of high temperature ceramics using a gas fired kiln.

Potters for Peace (PFP) in Nicaragua has developed a “ready to use” ceramic filter which eliminates almost 100 percent of all bacteria in water. Since then, PFP has helped to set up production sites in countries like Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Ghana, El Salvador, the Darfur region of Sudan and Myanmar, Burma and recently in Yemen. 

The PFP filter is simple in design, easy for families to use, and performs exceptionally well in laboratory tests. Research underway at the University of North Carolina indicates that with small additions of iron oxide, the filter can effectively remove viruses as well. 

With proper cleaning, maintenance and monitoring, this filter technology can provide potable water for rural families that draw their water from surface-influenced, contaminated sources such as springs, rivers, wells, or standing surface water.

GTZ-IWRM therefore promotes the production and distribution of this filter to be used in rural areas where access to safe drinking water is very difficult and where water networks are not available yet. Using these filters also enables them to promote the rainwater harvesting concept as a possible source for drinking water. GTZ-IWRM is working on this subject because drinking water supply in Yemen mostly relies on scarcer groundwater resources. If we want to implement a sustainable water management concept IWRM also has to focus on domestic water supply. They strongly believe that most rural household could be safely supplied out of an integrated rain water harvesting concept which is supported by all partners. 

The rate of filtration is determined by the mixture of combustible material, sawdust or rice husks, which are added to the clay before firing. The fired, treated filter is then placed in a plastic or ceramic receptacle with a lid and faucet. Filter units are sold to NGO’s at a wholesale price of about YR 4,000 with a basic plastic receptacle and faucet, and more expensive clay receptacles are available. A replacement filter costs about YR 2,500 for private individuals, but the price may differ.      

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