Faculty Advisor

Paul Mathisen

Faculty Advisor

Jeanine Plummer


One billion of the poorest people in the world today do not have access to improved drinking water. Without treatment, fecal contamination results in an overwhelming disease burden. A long term best practice solution will take decades to implement. In the meantime, approximately 5 million children under five die each year from gastrointestinal diseases. This tragedy can be alleviated by household water treatment. Household Water Treatment and safe Storage systems (HWTS) provide an interim solution. While many low cost and simple technologies exist, none of them are effective against high suspended solids concentrations (>50 NTU). Previous short-term field research by others has considered modifying a BioSand water Filter (BSF), to include pretreatment through an upper sand layer in order to extend the run cycle of the primary filter, enabling complete ripening to occur. In this research program, one control and twelve configurations of modified filters were setup in the laboratory. Water was chemically conditioned to provide worst case scenario treatment by adjusting pH, TDS, and particle dispersion. Sample water was passed through each filter daily, and monitored for DO, turbidity, flow rate, and E. coli concentrations. The results indicate that pretreatment is not necessarily beneficial under all water quality conditions. Recommendations include a description of conditions under which the modification may be beneficial, and optimized pretreatment design criteria. Regardless of water quality conditions, it was found that changing the operational guidelines for filter use can significantly improve treatment efficiency, without complicating the filter design. Design guidelines for an unmodified filter coupled with operational guidelines are provided, in order to obtain sufficient quantities of the best possible water quality under high turbidity conditions. This will enable the BSF to be used in high turbidity conditions and still significantly improve the drinking water quality. It is hoped that this will decrease the disease burden and loss of life in many of the world's poorest communities.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Civil & Environmental Engineering

Project Type


Date Accepted





Filter, Turbidity, HWTS, Household Water Treatment, Low Cost