2007-9 – Vhembe Low-cost Ceramic Water Filter

water / social impact design / water filter

Design and development of an improved low cost ceramic water filter based on the existing Potpaz home water treatment device for use within rural households of the Vhembe region

Martin Bolton, MTech Industrial Design, 2007-9.
Supervised by Angus D. Campbell & co-supervised by Dr. Paul Jagals. Project undertaken in partnership with the Department of Industrial Design, UJ, the UJ Water Health Research Centre and the South African Water Research Commission

This project aimed to develop the Potpaz ceramic water filter into an improved filter design optimally suited to South African rural conditions, to provide potable water rather than contaminated water to households. Communities that do not have access to in-house treated water often end up with a contaminated water supply, as the water to be consumed is usually sourced from communal water collection points and stored in containers. There is evidence that the water consumed at point-of-use in rural areas is not always of a potable quality due to possible contamination between collection and consumption. The existing Potpaz home water treatment device has been scientifically proven to return contaminated water to a potable state. A limited number have been imported to South Africa for use in a project that studied the effect of household point-of-use treatment on the health of the consumer. It was not at all certain whether the households would use these devices effectively because this filter was not part of their everyday water system. Part of investigating whether or not they would effectively use this filter was the inclusion of industrial design within the filter assessment section of a larger research project conducted in the Vhembe region to understand the requirements of the user. Industrial design concerns itself with the requirements of the user, as well as knowledge regarding product design, development and manufacturing. Households that took part in the point-of-use project used the Potpaz home water treatment device for more than two months and were approached to provide feedback regarding its use. From the feedback, it became evident that there were aspects of the Potpaz design that needed modification towards an improved water filter more suited for its intended use in rural households. An Action Research influenced methodology and User-Centred Design approach informed the collection of original data and feedback on areas of improvement. This, together with visits to local shops and community potters, provided sufficient background to understand the needs and preferences of the intended rural users regarding the use of the device. This informed the design process and increased the chances of developing a readily accepted, more suitable product to the intended users and the domestic environment in which they live. To achieve this, this project focused on the following aspects regarding Potpaz filters: placement, use and design aspects of usability and ergonomics. Development of the improved filter design culminated in rapid prototyping of a scale model and the fabrication of a full-size working model allowing for physical interface to evaluate the success of the design solution.

Outcomes:

Campbell, A.D. & Bolton, M. 2010.The Vhembe Filter: A Product for Rural South Africa. Image & Text: A Journal for Design. 16:4-20. ISSN: 1020 1497 (Peer Reviewed)

Bolton. M. 2009. Design and development of an improved low cost ceramic water filter based on the existing Potpaz home water treatment device for use within rural households of the Vhembe region. MTech Industrial Design Dissertation. University of Johannesburg.

Martin’s project was featured on Yanko Design

Martin’s project was a finalist in the INDEX: AIGA Aspen Design Challenge: Designing Water’s Future in 2009. You can briefly read his project statement as entry to the INDEX competition here.

The project was also a top 20 finalist in the SABS Foundation Innovation Awards 2011. You can briefly read his project statement as entry to the INDEX competition here.

All CAD files for the project were share on the Open Source platform Open Source Ecology.

For additional info please visit Martins website.