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Providing safe and clean water

Monday, June 4, 2012, by Tefiro Kituuka Serunjogi
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This summer I will work with Dr. Betsy Colburn to advance a research project I started in high school. The objective of my original project was to investigate ways in which hygienic and clean water could be provided to the people of my local community back home in Uganda.

My goal this summer is to build an implementable prototype of a filtration system and then test it for effectiveness, reliability and efficiency. Through my tests, I will look at how well the system purifies water, the life span of the system, and the logistics involved in maintaining the system.

My filtration system consists of a top layer of fine sand and two smaller bottom layers of gravel and small rocks. The inertial and centrifugal forces of the sand grains act upon particles in the water at a specific gravity higher than that of the surrounding water forcing these particles to leave the flow lines and deposit in the crevices (gaps) between the sand grains. As a result, the water is made free of inferior substances such as soil and dirt. The fine sand and other media (gravel and stones) need to be washed and properly cleaned before setting up the filter.

The next level of purification is exposure of the filtered water to sunlight. The sun’s ultraviolet radiation is effective in killing off several pathogens. Temperature rises due to sunlight exposure also help kill off some pathogens.

I will also investigate different design modifications with the objective of determining how and whether the system can be customized for both large scale (community) use and for small scale (personal/family) use. My initial small scale prototype has already produced some really good results in terms of the removal of turbidity from the water.

It should be an exciting rest of the summer and I hope that someday the work I do here will help better the lives of the people in my local community and others around the world.


“Access to safe water is a fundamental need and, therefore, a basic human right. Contaminated water jeopardizes both the physical and social health of all people. It is an affront to human dignity.” – Kofi Annan, ex-UN Secretary-General

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