The A3U strategy for drinking water security

In today’s world there is no shortage of technology for purifying water to make it safe for drinking. However, at the marginalized user end interface level, technology fails to have impact because of the low energy utilization in the area that makes it inappropriate for the area. Relief & Development agencies therefore have to continuously be in search of new, low cost appropriate technologies that can easily be transferred and adopted at the village in poor areas. This technology has to be cheap, require minimum technological capacities for maintenance, be easily adoptable by the poor and marginalized and be able to show dramatic results. One must therefore explored various options according to local contexts till it is possible to zero in on something specific like the ‘point-one-micron’ hollow fiber filter (sawyer) which meets all these criteria, and introduce them in the village development programs. One should also have a broad framework strategy similar to the food security assessment strategy, that is called the “A3U strategy” or the AAAU strategy. The AAAU, stands for the following:
  • Availability of water (natural water points and sources/wells –open and bore/ etc.)
  • Access to safe water (through filtration: BSF/Point-one-micron hollow fiber filters/etcetera) to ensure it is potable)
  • Asset creation through surplus water (where safe water can be used to generate income like a business)
  • Utilization of water (& safe water practices and behavior around it, including CLTS (Community Lead Total Sanitation)and ZOD(Zero Open Defecation)
​When starting in a new development area, one must start with exploring to see if water is available in the area that is free from contamination. Most communities already live around a water source such as a river, or pond or lake. These sources are often contaminated (with bacteria, protozoa, soil transmitted helminthes etcetera) and result in gastro intestinal problems. However, as long as there is no poisonous material causing contamination, this water can easily be filtered using the point one micron hollow filter (Sawyer®- see details at end of this blog). In some cases, especially resettled communities, there is no easy availability of water and villagers have to travel long distances to procure water, a task that often gets delegated to the women and teenage girls in the household. In such cases, it is good to look at either establishing a bore well in the area or rehabilitating one that is already there. Then one should explore other soil and water conservation techniques such as micro-water shed development and the construction of sand dams. Once Water becomes available, safe access to it and ensuring that it is safe becomes the next greatest concern. Where water is not extremely turbid or muddy, the BSF-Bio Sand Filter works very well, but in areas where there is muddy water with high contamination, the Point One Micron Water filter (Hollow fiber technology similar to the one used for Kidney Dialysis) is used. Several NGOs have had  very good response in using these filters in Indonesia, Kenya, Uganda, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Bolivia, Ecuador and Honduras; to name a few. In one detailed study conducted in several parts of Ecuador, researchers found a 60-70% reduction in the disease burden, with a saving of close to 30-40 USD per month in medical expenses per household. Efforts are being made to explore options of how water filter users can also get into the business of selling  safe water so that those who have surplus water can use it to generate income and make ‘safe water’ an asset creating venture. A lot of contamination of water takes place around storage and utilization and this calls for training for behavior change. The CLTS (Community Lead Total Sanitation) program is complimentary to such activities to make it a successful WASH strategy to avoid Environmental Enteropathy.
​Important links: (Kenya: introductions of hollow fiber water filters event) (Sanitized households) (Sawyer filters) (TV interview regarding water Oklahoma) (Potential Macro water supply project) (water hero- Change agents making a difference)

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