Providing clean drinking water to the people of Lake Atitlan

One of the things I have learned during this last year of traveling and volunteering is how simple it actually is to start projects that really improve lives. There is so much knowledge and motivated people out there that a project just needs to find the right people and the money to get started, which is easier than ever in such a global and well-connected world. A project I recently volunteered with that’s proof of this is Water Works, an organization by Guatemala’s Lake Atitlan that is aiming to produce and hand out ceramic water filters in order to improve access clean drinking water around the lake. The project is just starting out, but the founder has already done a similar project in Costa Rica where the filters were a great success.

Sink in a family home in San Juan la Laguna
Access to clean drinking water is one of the biggest challenges for people living in poverty.

Clean drinking water with locally produced ceramic filters

There are many types of water filters, and the type that Water Works plans to build is a ceramic filter. The filter is essentially a ceramic pot made with a mixture of clay and very fine sawdust in a 7:2 ratio. When the pot is burned in a kilm, the sawdust will burn, leaving behind tiny pores that allow water to pass while filtering out dirt and bacteria. It is important that the clay-sawdust mixture is properly mixed for optimal results. The clay pot is also lined with colloidal silver which further helps kill bacteria and viruses. These filters last five years ad can filter three liters of water per hour.

Ceramic water filter
The filters Water Works plans to make are similar to this filter made by Ecofiltro. The clay pot is placed inside the plastic container, water is poured into the clay pot, and the water slowly filters through the clay pot and into the plastic container.

The plan is to manufacture these filters locally with the help of volunteers and then hand them out to poor families in the villages around Lake Atitlan. Filters are given to those in most need, and Water Works is cooperating with local churches in order to find the right families. The project will continue for at least a year but possibly longer, depending on the need and the amount of money raised.

For now the project is still in its beginning stages. The first step is to raise enough money to buy a press that makes the clay pots and a mixer for mixing the clay-sawdust mixture. Once these machines are in place and a kilm has been built, the actual production of the filters can start and several filters can be made in a day with little cost. Then it is just a matter of distribution, and countless families will have improved access to clean drinking water and healthier lives thanks to such a simple but powerful project.

Fundraising money for water filters
Water Works is just starting out, and during my stay we mainly focused on fundraising and raising awareness, for example by selling cakes.

2 thoughts on “Providing clean drinking water to the people of Lake Atitlan

  1. Thanks for posting this article. Is there anyway to get contact information for Water Works? I live in San Juan at Lake Atitlan working for an organization that is experimenting with low cost filtration options (among other projects) and have been looking all over town to get in touch with Water Works. I believe I had a chance encounter with the founder a few days ago but forgot to get his number.

    1. Hey Marin, great to hear you’re interested in the project! I have forwarded your e-mail address to the founder so he can get in touch with you.

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