Jay Todd Max amd Avril Pitter – Physical Sciences & Engineering

January 23, 2014 2:39 pm Published by

Water Treatment Design and Implementation for Rural Regions of Developing Nations


For seven weeks last summer I lived with a homestay family in rural Rwanda. I learned to live as they do, sleeping in their 
mud-brick house, waking up at dawn, eating their food and using the same water. They exposed me to the realities of rural 
poverty, particularly regarding the inaccessibility of clean water. They talked about struggling to grow enough crops when a 
waterborne illness would have them bedridden for a week. They talked about children getting dehydrated because of not 
wanting to drink bad tasting water. 

I wanted to help solve this problem, so I went out and performed field research in my community of Bwana, in the Eastern 
Province, as well as in neighboring communities, to gather information. I asked questions, made observations, and recorded 
insights that I hoped one day would help these people live a life without the troubles of unclean water. 
Upon returning to USC, Viv and I partnered up so that we could take the field research and turn it into a solution for 
Bwana, and for other rural communities like it in the developing world. We designed a water treatment system tailored to 
such communities, with the intent that our instructions would be easily understood by government agencies and NGO's in 

The research includes a database of the most common and dangerous waterborne pathogens of the developing world, and 
detailed instructions for water treatment design systems. Treatment systems include the Horizontal Roughing Filter, which 
can effectively remove turbidity from source-water, and the Bio-sand Filter, which uses a biolayer called the Smutzdecke to 
biologically treat unsafe source-water. We hope to take these designs to Rwanda and partner with our contact 
organizations in an effort to implement the designs in rural communities.

Learning Outcomes:

Through our research we have gained greater understanding of what we learn in the Environmental Engineering classes of 
the University curriculum, and this includes the concepts relating to the interactions and impact of treatment technologies 
with the environment, and the necessity for using local and foreign agencies, foundations and NGOs to secure funding for 
the design and implementation of the treatment processes on a global scale in developing countries. During the travel to 
Rwanda, Jay Todd Max acquired the skills for pursuing field research, specifically to make insightful observations and 
address critical questions. In creating the visual aids pertaining to the two water treatment systems described, Viv Pitter 
acquired the knowledge for implementing computer automated design programs such as SketchUp.

Student Contribution: http://cee.usc.edu/assets/024/85077.pdf

Categorised in:

This post was written by Admin1