Potters for Peace Interview

Interview with Kaira Wagoner, Filter Project Coordinator of Potters for Peace

What work has Potters for Peace done in Cambodia? Has there been any research done specifically on the water communities that line the rivers and the Tonle Sap?
There are three factories in Cambodia, the locations and contact information for which are located on our website here: http://pottersforpeace.com/?page_id=360. You will have to contact the factories directly to find out about research that has been performed in specific areas – Potters for Peace works as consultants to help establish new factories and troubleshoot production problems at existing factories, we are generally not involved with research in the field.

In what kind of communities specifically have these ceramic filters made the biggest impact? Do they perhaps have properties that aid significantly in some, while falling short in others?
Ceramic Filters are designed for the removal of turbidity, protozoa, parasites and bacteria from water. As a result, they work best in communities whose water sources have these types of contamination problems. Ceramic filters do not sufficiently remove viruses or chemical contamination from water.

Are there aspects of ceramic water sanitation that have been implemented in communities, that still are not functioning to their full potential and could be improved? Are they perhaps functioning to a lesser degree in some parts of the world, more than others, for specific reasons?
Absolutely. Quality control of filters is a common concern. While Potters for Peace can make recommendations regarding production and quality control parameters, we are not in a position to enforce these on a global scale. We recommend that local governments and NGO-buyers test the filters, and demand high quality from local producers. Marketing and distribution of filters could also be improved in many communities. It is important to establish good distribution chains throughout communities, such that filter users have easy access to replacement parts (i.e.: they can buy a new filter or spigot if theirs breaks). Without good distribution chains the filter is only a short term solution, and we are always pushing for long-term sustainability within each community.

How difficult and essential is it to attain the correct porosity of the clay through the process of mixing in burnout material? What is the optimum pore size?
Establishing the correct ratio of clay to burnout material is essential, and is something many groups struggle with. Potters for Peace recommends that factories work closely with one of our experienced consultants when establishing a new filter factory, in part, because we have a lot of experience with initiating the production of high quality filters. We recommend testing each filter for flow rate, rather than pore size, which is quite difficult and expensive to measure.

Are the locals able to make or fix their own filters should it break? How ‘sustainable’ are the ceramic filters and what additional services specifically must be implemented in the country?
No. Production of filters is a technical and skilled process that should only be performed by trained individuals with access to the proper materials, equipment, and quality control parameters. Compared to other interventions like boiling, filters are highly sustainable, as they are less harmful to the environment. Our model also promotes local production and local income (a local solution to a local problem) which we believe is more sustainable than traditional aid models which rely on external technical and financial support. User education programs and good distribution networks should be implemented in each country where filters are produced.

Why are communities that do not have ceramic filters for clean drinking water, still without? For example, in Cambodia, the water communities around Tonle Sap have limited to no access to the current relatively successful BioSand filters that are elsewhere in the country, due to the filters’ weight and immobility. As mentioned before in the previous email, ceramic filters are a much lighter alternative with similar filtration products that seemingly would do quite well on a houseboat or one that lines the lake with shaky infrastructure. Our biggest question is, why is it that these filters are not being used here; or more places in general? Are there issues that you know of, specifically around these water communities, that restrict the use of ceramic water filters being used?
There are no issues that we know of preventing the use or production of ceramic filters in this area. The reason they are not there already is that no one has initiated production of the filters – perhaps the technology is not yet known about in this region. Financial input required for establishment of a new factory may also be a reason filters are not yet produced in the region. For successful factory establishment, both community-centered entrepreneurship and adequate funding are required.

What logistics, political or social aspects are involved in the work that Potters for Peace does which may both aid and support, or hinder and provide setbacks to development?
We certainly hope that no part of our involvement hinders development. Our goal is to provide the technical know-how if filter production to locally-based organizations interested in the introduction of the filter technology to their community

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