Ceramic filter provides wellspring of safe drinking water in Uganda

UGANDA • Bright Little Angel Primary School pupils rush towards a water dispenser, cups in hand. The dispenser, called Purifaaya, is one of four in the school.

“We emphasise the importance of drinking water because we want the pupils to get used to it,” said Mr Basajja Kirinya, the school principal.

In Uganda, water-borne diseases remain a leading cause of mortality for children under the age of five.

The World Bank‘s Water And Sanitation Programme notes that diarrhoeal diseases from poor sanitation, and time spent fetching water, cost the country more than US$170 million (S$227.2 million) every year.

Purifaaya is a ceramic water filter that rids water of bacteria, dirt, germs and other impurities, and is manufactured in Kampala by US-based social enterprise Spouts Of Water.

Its co-founder, Ms Kathy Ku, spent a summer in Uganda and was struck by the lack of access to safe drinking water, so she partnered fellow Harvard student John Kye to create the organisation in 2012.

  • $27

  • Cost of a Purifaaya filter in US dollars (S$36). It comes with dispensers of two different sizes – 20 litres and 65 litres.

In 2015, Uganda‘s Ministry of Water and Environment determined that Purifaaya was 99.9 per cent effective.

Purifaaya has a ceramic filter inside the plastic dispenser made entirely with local materials: clay, sawdust and a thin layer of silver nitrate to enhance the removal of bacteria. This ceramic pot lets water trickle through, maintaining its taste, while trapping pollutants, and organic and inorganic materials larger than half a micron.

Its gravity-based filtration process allows a flow rate of up to 3 litres per hour. A Purifaaya filter costs US$27 and comes with dispensers of two different sizes – one with a 20-litre capacity, and another with a 65-litre capacity.

Since 2015, more than 1,600 filters have been distributed to schools through a partnership programme with non-governmental organisation Save the Children, ensuring safe water for 30,000 students.