Emergency Household Water Filter Challenge
Providing safe water to drink is a basic necessity. Without this, infectious diseases including hepatitis E, cholera, and other diarrhoeal diseases can quickly spread causing widespread suffering and loss of life. In emergency situations the need for simple to use, easy to transport and effective mechanisms for producing clean water is paramount.
Household water treatment solutions such as filtration devices are one way of helping provide access to clean drinking water in emergency situations. They are comparatively low cost, simple to use and transport, and enable a short distance from treatment to consumption. Because of this, household water filters have the potential to be particularly effective in humanitarian emergencies.
However, there is a significant gap in both the quantitative and qualitative evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of household water filters during a humanitarian emergency. Lab test results or field tests carried out in development contexts can offer some guidance, but are rarely applicable to the realities of an emergency context.
The complexities of training a local population to use filters correctly and consistently, as well as variations between water types in different contexts (e.g. different turbidity levels or mineral content) are just two factors that can affect how effective water filters are at providing clean water on the ground.
In 2013, we commissioned a Gap Analysis to identify key challenges in emergency WASH (Water Sanitation and Hygiene). Water Treatment and the availability of safe water to drink in a humanitarian emergency was highlighted as an area where significant investment and work has been done, but where evidence around the effectiveness and use of existing solutions is scarce.
To further understand the work carried out to date, as well as existing limitations and opportunities for innovation in Water Treatment, we commissioned Syed Imran Ali, PhD and Khalid Kadir, PhD, University of California, Berkeley, with the writing of a Problem Exploration Report.
Based on the Problem Exploration Report, we commissioned research and design company Science Practice to create a long-list of specific Water Treatment challenges towards which we could direct funding. This long list was called the Challenge Candidate List.
Following further research, interviews with the HIF’s Technical Working Group and other humanitarian practitioners, and several iterations, the current Emergency Household Water Filter Challenge was created.