The need for clean water is universal. Right now, more than 800 million people on this planet live without access to safe clean drinking water. As recent hurricanes in North America illustrate, even people who live in developed countries are just a natural disaster or crisis away from not having access to safe drinking water. Bottled water might seem to be the safest water to drink during a disaster, but bottled water is heavy and bulky, making it expensive to transport and store. Some method to filter and/or disinfect locally available water is a much better long-term solution for both disaster relief and chronic water quality problems.
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The Story behind AQUASIV
Daniel Beams, the founder and director of Agua Yaku—a clean water project in Bolivia, has been working closely with Vitchelo, an energetic new outdoor products company, to develop a new portable water filter system that will be the most universally adaptable water filter on the market. It will be brought to market at an affordable price point that will make it competitive in the North American, European, and developing world markets.
We will have strict quality controls in place to ensure that each AQUASIV unit is tested and ready for years of dependable service. We are currently lining up manufacturing and sourcing accessories. We have tested 3-D printed working prototypes, finalized our design, and are gearing up for production. AQUASIV will initially be available in North American and European markets. We hope to have a “brick-and-mortar” retail presence soon after successfully launching online.
The Problem with Water Filters
There are many methods to filter or disinfect contaminated water. Many solutions, such as boiling or chemical disinfection, are simple and effective, but they can be time consuming and costly. Centralized water systems can be a great way to bring clean water to larger populations, but in many rural areas around the world water systems are cost prohibitive. “Point of use” water filtration is a great way to ensure families have access to clean water regardless of the quality of the local water source. Personal water filters have been on the market for decades. The most effective have been ceramic, carbon, and membrane filters that trap, kill, or block pathogens from passing through the filter. Most of these filters have an extremely slow flow rate and require a good amount of time and pressure to filter larger volumes of water. Most traditional water filters use a pump to force water through a ceramic filter. Mechanical pumps are complex, with many moving parts. They often break and are not reliable for long-term use. Ceramic filters clog easily and require frequent maintenance to maintain water flow. Pumping is also slow and labor intensive, sometimes requiring a good bit of sweat-equity just to filter one liter of water. A welcome addition to the water filter market has been “hollow fiber membrane” technology. Originally developed for medical applications, these filter membranes have been recently adapted for water filtration. Hollow fiber membranes (HFM) are extremely porous and can filter water at up to 20 times the rate of standard ceramic filters. These micro-pores, 0.2 to 0.01 microns in size, easily filter out bacteria and other disease-causing pathogens. 0.2 or 0.1-micron filters have the best flow rate and remove all bacteria and protozoa, but do not remove viruses. When viruses are a threat, a 0.02-micron or smaller filter membrane will be required; however, flow rate will be greatly reduced. Hollow fiber membranes are uniquely suited for water filtration because of their high flow rate, but also because they are easily maintained and durable. If flow rate diminishes, HFM filters can be easily and quickly back washed to remove sediment and other contaminants. Hollow fiber membranes are durable enough to filter thousands of gallons of water and to withstand many backwashing cycles. They are small, lightweight, and are not fragile like old-style ceramic filters.
Sawyer and Lifestraw are two well know companies that have successfully marketed HFM water filters for outdoor recreation, emergency preparedness, and for chronic water quality problems in the developing world. There are several ways to filter water through HFM filters—pressure (pumping or squeezing), gravity, and suction. Lifestraw markets simple HFM filters that require users to directly suck contaminated water through a straw-like device. This can be accomplished by drinking directly from the source, lying on the ground in a prone position (awkward) or from a bottle or some other container. Sawyer has focused more on squeezing and gravity, which in my experience are more effective for filtering larger volumes of water. Squeeze bags are a convenient way to filter a liter or two of water when the user is on the go—hiking, mountain biking, etc. Using a bag or bucket to elevate contaminated water and then letting gravity draw the water through the filter is the least labor-intensive way to utilize HFM filtration to filter larger volumes of water. Sawyer has successfully promoted their “bucket” gravity system for use in the developing world where many people do not have indoor plumbing. Many hikers and campers are also discovering the convenience of using the hanging gravity systems for outdoor activities.
Agua Yaku, Dr. Beams’ clean water project in Bolivia, has been using HFM bucket filters for over five years. His project has placed more than 2500 water filters in rural communities throughout Bolivia. He has been impressed with the concept and function of HFM filters for both humanitarian applications and for outdoor recreation. He has however, through observation and practice developed several ways to improve the “user interface” with this new technology. The motive behind Daniel’s creation of AQUASIV is his desire to improve the accessibility and effectiveness of water filtration technology in communities in desperate need of clean water. Lower costs and an improved user interface will go far to secure higher adoption rates and thus long-term improvements in the health and well-being of families throughout the developing world. In 2016 MSR, a leader in outdoor recreation, released the “Cadillac” of hollow fiber membrane filters. The MSR “Guardian” uses a large high quality 0.02-micron filter and a pump mechanism that ensures ultra-filtration, including viruses, and a fast flow rate of 2.5 liters per minute. The Guardian is great for backpacking and camping, but even given all its advantages, it is not ideal for all situations. It cannot be set up for gravity filtration or connected to a faucet, and it retails for $350 USD. As you will read below, the AQUASIV will be more versatile than even the best filter currently on the market, and the price will only be a fraction of the cost of the MSR Guardian.
The AQUASIV Concept
AQUASIV is a modular water filtration system that uses combinations of three different filter modules; two hollow fiber membrane (HFM) filters (0.1-micron or 0.02-micron), and a granulated activated carbon (GAC) filter. Flow rate will be the best in the outdoor market. It will function well as a camp filter (for higher volume needs), but the same filter can easy be used as a straw filter or in conjunction with a flexible bottle or squeeze bag for personal hydration. The system will be highly adaptable and widely compatible for use in all outdoor activities, as well as in disaster relief and developing world contexts. AQUASIV HFM filters remove biological contaminants (bacteria, protozoa, cysts, viruses), and the GAC module removes chemical contaminants. Contaminated water can to be squeezed, gravity fed, or suctioned through the filter. It can also be attached to pressurized plumbing systems (i.e. faucets), which increases flow rate.
The AQUASIV system addresses the limitations and weaknesses of pump, gravity, and straw filters currently on the market. It simplifies and improves upon filters that are currently available. AQUASIV can be used in a variety of ways that will fit the needs of all outdoor, travel, emergency preparedness, home, charity, and disaster-relief situations.
Filter System Components
Filter Options (three module options provide several possible filter configurations)
- 0.1-micron hollow fiber membrane (HFM) filter module: filters bacteria, protozoa, cysts— least expensive, best flow-rate, perfect for most situations.
- 0.02-micron hollow fiber membrane (HFM) filter module: filters bacteria, protozoa, cysts, and viruses—safest filter, international travel, lower flow-rate. This module will be released at a future date (not currently part of any pledge level package).
- Granulated activated carbon (GAC) filter module: removes chemicals, heavy metals, improves taste.
The HFM filter threads directly into a flexible Nalgene style water bottle or bag (63-mm threads) or it can be threaded into the AQUASIV filter housing to set up a gravity filtration system or to use externally with a soda or water bottle (28-mm threads).
The HFM and GAC filter modules can be joined together via male and female 28-mm threads and used in combination. The activated carbon unit can also be used as a stand-alone filter when users want to improve taste and/or remove chemicals but are not concerned with biological contaminants.
Flow rate is improved over other popular gravity HFM filters because AQUASIV uses a larger filter element. Faster flow rates result in: 1) less wait time when filtering by gravity, 2) less force required when squeezing or suctioning, and 3) less clogging when filtering turbid water.
Backwashing is easily accomplished with a 500 ml plastic bottle attached to the clean end of filter using the provided coupling adapter. Filtered water is squeezed back through the filter in the opposite direction of normal flow. This is repeated until backwash water appears clear and flows freely. This backwash method guarantees a more secure fit, and a greater backwash volume than the syringe method used by other filter brands.
One-Year limited manufacturer’s warranty: We have a one-year warranty against manufacturer defects. With proper backwashing and maintenance, the hollow fiber member (HFM) filter element will filter up to 100,000 liters of water and provide years of dependable service.
The activated carbon filter (GAC) does not have as long a utility lifespan as the HFM filter. The carbon filter should be replaced every 3 to 6 months depending on frequency of use.
A common complaint about other squeeze filter systems is that the collapsible bags shipped with the filters are not reliable and are difficult to fill. Many users have reported that these bags frequently break at the seams when squeezed too forcefully. Others have complained that the flat bag combined with the small opening is hard to fill with contaminated water.
AQUASIV solves this problem by manufacturing a flexible bag with a much larger opening, the same size as a standard Nalgene water bottle. These bags are easy to fill. The AQUASIV filter screws directly into the mouth of the bag, creating a compact filter and bag combo that is easy to fill, easy to squeeze, and has a super high flow rate. It can also be screwed into any flexible water bottle with this common large-mouth thread size.
It is easy to set up a gravity filtration system by screwing the filter into the filter housing and attaching the provided silicon rubber hose. The complete AQUASIV system will include either a 2-liter hydration style bag with a large-opening/easy seal top, or/and a high quality 5-liter or 10-liter tarpaulin style dry bag.
Like a traditional dry bag, the AQUASIV bag has a large sealable opening on top to allow for easy filling. It also includes a smaller 28 mm (soda bottle style) threaded exit on the bottom that can be used to attach directly to the filter or to a rubber hose. With the filter attached directly, the bag can be easily filled, sealed, and squeezed; manually forcing water through the filter. The AQUASIV bag can also be suspended at head height so gravity can do the work of filtration.
The bags (and other accessories) can also be purchased separately. When not being used as gravity/squeeze bags, AQUASIV bags can be used as traditional dry bags to keep sensitive gear dry while hiking, or they can even be used as solar camp showers. In a pinch, even a discarded 2-liter soda bottle can be used as a squeeze or as a gravity container.
Clean Water Receptacles
Clients will provide their own clean water receptacles. Soda bottles can be screwed directly onto the “clean” water side of the filter exit using the provided female-to-female adapter. Larger containers and bags can be attached via a rubber hose. Nalgene bottles can be directly attached to the clean end of the filter using the provided 28 mm-to-63 mm adapter. A gravity system can be set up using the provided 1.2-meter hose and appropriate threaded attachments.
When using AQUASIV with a bucket or jerry-can, the siphon hook can be threaded onto the hose and used to siphon water over the edge of an open-top container. Using the gravity system in this manner eliminates the need to drill a hole at the bottom of the bucket and permanently attach a special hose accessory (as is required with other popular bucket systems).
The pre-filter cartridge filters out the larger particles from turbid water. We will ship the cartridge with a cotton batting insert that can be washed/replaced when needed. The user can use whatever media they wish. Sand and gravel will work well to both filter sediment and serve as a weight to hold the input hose underwater. The mesh end of the cartridge has a 28 mm female thread, so the pre-filter can also be attached inline between the gravity bag and the hose.
- A 120 cm length of ¼” rubber tubing (for gravity setup), plus two 8 cm pieces of same tubing (used as connector pieces and as a drinking straw).
- Plastic shut-off valve on the silicon hose.
- 28 mm female threaded (soda bottle compatible) adapter with ¼” nipple exit—attaches between rubber hose and gravity bag.
- 28 mm male threaded adapter—used to join silicon hose to filter housing.
- 28 mm female-female threaded adapter–used on clean end of filter to attach clean water receptacles.
- Filter housing cap–seals filter housing when not in use, preventing filter from dripping in pack or from drying out.
- Common soda bottle snap drink top.
- Siphon hook—used to hang the intake hose on the side of a bucket or other contaminated water container.
- 63 mm-to-28 mm bottle converter—used to attach Nalgene bottle to filter.
- Nylon carry bag—securely stores AQUASIV filter and accessories in a compact and easy to carry pouch.
NOW ITS YOUR TURN
We believe access to clean water should be a universal basic human right. Join us in our quest to bring clean water to everyone, regardless of where they were born or their financial status. By supporting this Kickstarter campaign, you will receive a great water filter for everyday and recreational use, and you will be helping stamp out endemic waterborne disease throughout the world.Find us on Kickstarter