Wood Mold: the Open-Source Solution That Makes Water Filters Accessible to Water-poor Communities

How a BioSand Filter works

An award winning open-source technology is bringing safe water to remote and water-scarce communities: cheap, easy to assemble and requiring no technical know-how or expensive inputs, it helps people to access clean drinking water fast!

Autor*in Annalisa Dorigo, 12.13.16

An award winning open-source technology is bringing safe water to remote and water-scarce communities: cheap, easy to assemble and requiring no technical know-how or expensive inputs, it helps people to access clean drinking water fast!

According to WHO and UNICEF, 663 million people lack access to a safe drinking water source, with eight out of ten of them living in rural areas. In another study nearly 1,000 children are found to die everyday from diarrhoeal disease linked to a lack of safe water.

To help solve such problems, Ohorizons – “a non-profit coalition of technical, social and commercial innovators” – has come up with the Wood Mold, a low-tech solution to the global challenge of lack of access to safe water.

Their Wood Mold is essentially a wooden frame that can be used to manufacture concrete BioSand water filters for a fraction of the cost traditionally associated with water filters. BioSand Filters use sand and gravel as well as biological processes to make water free and safe from harmful pathogens such as cholera, typhoid, E coli, amoebic dysentery and parasitic worms.

Using only 100 per cent locally sourced materials, BioSand Filters (BSF) are not just cheaper and durable (with an up to 20-year lifespan), but their manufacturing relies on local labour rather than capital intensive parts, and requires no electricity nor additional parts.

When compared with traditional concrete BSF (that are made using a steel mould and usually require an experienced welder to put them together), BSF made using a wood mould come much cheaper (see infographic below), and can be manufactured by anyone (the only requirement is online access to download the manual).

Low-cost, low-tech, and open-source, these wood moulds enable anyone anywhere to bring clean water to their community.

Ohorizons, which won the 2016 Excellence in Education Award, aims to make safe drinking water accessible to the most remote and resource-strapped communities, and to support them in making the most of their BioSand Filters once installed. Their wood mould construction manual is currently available in English, Portuguese and Spanish, and a French version is also on its way. 

Ohorizons however doesn’t just provide an open-source construction manual for its Wood Mold. As part of its outreach activities, Ohorizons has also been training people in the use of Wood Mold in Bangladesh, Kenya, Mali and Ecuador. In Bangladesh alone, five wood moulds and twenty BSF have been built, bringing safe water to 250 people for the next 20 years. Here the project is set to bring access to safe water to some 5,000 people by the end of 2016.

You can find many videos about the initiative on their website, or you can click on the one below:

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