2016 Acara Fellows – Pure Paani
While water availability varies by season, water quality is a year-round problem for the slum-dwelling residents of Bangalore. A number of treatment options are available, but none are convenient and affordable while also being safe. As part of an Acara Grand Challenge course, Pure Paani developed a lightweight, low-cost, hand operated filtration device intended to address this market limitation. Christopher Bulkley-Logston presented the idea in the Acara Challenge, winning the international division and receiving an Acara Innovation Fellowship, while I (Kaylea Brase) investigated the problem further in Bangalore, India.
At first, approaching slum communities was difficult for me because English fluency is less common among poor people in Bangalore. I started learning Hindi/Urdu and was able to develop relationships with a few families in the lower-income areas. I visited a school in the slum where I interviewed some of the students about their water sources, water storage, health, and needs. The students enjoyed testing the filter prototype and giving feedback. I connected with potential partners such as SELCO who showed an interest in piloting the filter among slum villages where solar lighting projects have been established. SELCO provided another opportunity for me to meet slum residents and ask for their feedback. I also investigated current filter options and brands available in Bangalore in addition to testing the quality of different Bangalore water sources. I experienced first-hand the negative health effects of drinking unfiltered water (accidentally) as well as the difficulty of getting home filter systems cleaned and replaced. I worked with Sushant Bamane, a local chemist who has experience designing filters for Tata Consultancy Services, to modify and test the prototype. We incorporated four hollow fiber membranes which resulted in 99.99% bacteria removal and a flow rate of about 4 L/min.
After completing his coursework, Chris joined the Peace Corp and explored the feasibility of launching the water filter in Cameroon. He identified the recurrence of water-borne illnesses in Cameroon and confirmed interest in the filter. He specifically verified the demand for portable water filtration in the rural village of Sabongari. He confirmed feasibility of the price and recreated the prototype with local parts. He worked with a local technician named Dan, who adapted and constructed several prototypes of his own. One of the prototypes is a standing “ﬁltration station”, which is foot-powered in order to minimize operator fatigue.
We are grateful to Acara for the opportunity to investigate further the feasibility of launching Pure Paani. Both Chris and I have become more passionate about the problem of water quality and more empowered to develop solutions tailored to the needs of the poor. Pure Paani was recently registered as an LLC, and a pilot and launch will begin in August upon my return to India. I would not have had the courage to make this potentially long-term career move without the support and encouragement of Acara.