Nica Agua was launched in 2012 in Jinotega, Nicaragua by Comunidad Connect to increase access to clean water for rural families dealing with chronic diarrhea and parasites. The first iteration of the program employed the use of a ceramic filter called a Filtron. These low-tech, user-friendly water filters are impregnated with colloidal silver and help eliminate approximately 99.88% of water-born disease agents. During the first years of the program, 1280 filters were distributed across 21 communities in rural Nicaragua, directly benefiting over 7,000 individuals. 

Yarisleidy Cortez speaking about the Filtron water filter in 2012

In December of 2019, Director of Community Development, Yarisleidy Cortez traveled to the Dominican Republic with a small group of students from the University of Virginia. The goal of the trip was to build and test the effectiveness of a bio-sand filter design. Together they constructed 10 filters and Yarisledy returned to Nicaragua eager to try the new method. 

University of Virginia students in the Dominican Republic

The biosand filter has been used to treat water for over 200 years. The container can be made of concrete or plastic and is filled with layers of sand and gravel. The sand removes pathogens and debris while a layer of microorganisms form on the top 2 cm of sand. This “biolayer” is where many pathogens are eliminated.  

Contaminated water is poured into the top of the biosand filter at least once per day. The water poured into the filter slowly drips through holes in a diffuser, and flows down through the sand and gravel. Treated water flows out of the outlet tube. Powered by gravity, it takes about 1 hour to get 12-18 litres of filtered drinking water. 

Yarisleidy also took inspiration from Daivd Gullette and the Newton-San Juan del Sur Sister City Project. They began making bio-sand filters in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua in 2009 and quickly found the traditional concrete biosand filter was too heavy to transport. The Sister City Project dealt with numerous filters that broke during transportation, causing cracks and leaks. So in 2013, the project switched to a PVC version of the biosand filter, which is robust, lightweight and can be assembled in about an hour. In addition, all the materials needed to build the filters could be easily found locally. 

Using these insights, Yarisleidy began construction of bio-sand filters in April 2021. Together with a local water filter expert, they began teaching brigadistas (health promoters) in the community of Los Robles how to make the filters. See below for step by step videos of this process. In the next article, we will explain more about the scope of the project, the desired outcomes and the benefits of having access to clean drinking water.

The first step is the fill the bottom layer of the filter with gravel

Next, smaller rocks are poured in. This layer is followed by fine sand. Both layers are then packed down.

Next, the water flow is tested by timing how long it takes for water to flow through the filter. Less than 2 minutes is too fast and more than 3.30 minutes too slow. Adjustments can be made accordingly.

Once installed, water needs to be poured until it exits crystal clear.

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