Filter Project in the Alto Plano

CAPD is working with the Fundacion Red Proyecto Gente – loosely translated as the Network of Projects for People.  We call it FRPG for short.  The pilot project is serving 102 families in the high Andes of Colombia at altitudes exceeding 9000 feet.  The photos below will give you some appreciation of the activities and challenges.


Rocio is the Foundation President and here you see her explaining the agreement to some of the families and then getting a signature from a lady farmer.  This agreement is to stimulate a sense of ownership and allow the program to remove the filter if the family does not use it, which almost never happens.  As in many Andean populations, everyone has a hat and is dressed in layers including the traditional heavy wool ruana or poncho.  Weather changes very quickly at these altitudes.


Rocio and her husband Ivan have rented a house in the area so they could minimize travel time and relate better to the neighbours.  The population in this rural area is served by 3 rural water sources basically hoses from distant springs bringing water to the farm homes.  Each home has a water meter and pays a small amount for the water consumed.  These funds go to pay a Fontanero (water man) who is hired to keep the systems working.  Water quality is reasonable much of the time but during some seasons it looks like milky tea and in other seasons families are encouraged to ration their usage.  The BioSand Water filters take out the turbidity and improve the quality but need a reliable water source on a daily basis to ensure filter function.


FRPG is learning all aspects of filter construction and community distribution through this pilot project. Here, Edward an environmental engineer and a director of the organization, fixes some leaks in a filter box.


Producing the filter media has been a huge challenge during the climatic phenomenon called El Niño .  The water sources could not produce enough water to properly wash the filter media, a process that requires a large amount of water.  After many trials, FRPG found a commercial provider of fine washed sand at a very reasonable price. Here you see the first delivery of the bagged commercial sand.

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However, a small amount of prepared gravel that forms a base for the fine filter media, still needs to be washed. Here you see Rocio helping the family perform this responsibility. Everyone wants to pitch in.  Or is it just that they want to play in the water?




Families must pick up their filter boxes and filter media from a central location on the mountain side.  Some families collaborate to hire a truck; others do things on their own manpower or horsepower.  These photos give you some idea of how it is done.


Installation is a lengthy process since the filter must be flushed to remove the dust particles trapped in the filter media. Rural women are never idle and while waiting for the flushing to be complete, this lady is busy spinning. There are no heating systems so notice all the layers of her clothing.


So the project is progressing and over half the families are enjoying safe water now. Some of the households with children have become creative.

We are thankful to have a partner such as FRPG (Rocio, Ivan and Edward) and look forward to working with them in other regions of Colombia.