Mundare Aqua Rainwater Collection and Filtration System: Accessible Water for All

Barangay Lawa, Calamba, Laguna

Hannah Paula Atun, Marilou Manahan, Maelen Dela Cueva, Paulo Urena, & Christian Leobrera

In an attempt to reduce the vulnerabilities of many households during disasters caused by typhoons or drought, the innovator behind Pluvia Technologies developed a low-cost rainwater collection and filtration system. Its user-friendly design also allowed individuals with limited mobility and strength such as children, women, persons with disability, and the elderly to harvest as well as utilize water with minimal effort – providing them with a sense of independence and more opportunities to spend their time for more productive pursuits.

Pluvia Technologies aims to provide households and communities across the country with an alternative, low-cost, sustainable, and clean water source that they could use to overcome issues of water shortage and/or water contamination especially during disasters. The innovator also hopes to lessen the short-term reactive behaviour towards disaster among individuals by highlighting the importance of pre-emptive measures as seen in the results of the passive yet efficient water collection and filtration system.

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Funding to further develop the system in order to make it more disaster-resistant, effective, and cost-efficient – especially if scaled for communal use such as evacuation areas

pluvia.rcfs@gmail.com

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Many people have a negative connotation about rain, conjuring images of flooding and calamities. But rainwater is almost always there, and it's free.

I also want to break the 'OK na yan' attitude that we have when it comes to water. We have to make clean water a priority.

Water is the most basic of human needs. Its role in food production, sanitation,  and socio-economic development is recognized by all. But for many people, access to this precious resource remains elusive.

Paula Atun, a native of Barangay Lawa in Calamba City, Laguna, knows this. Poverty and geography combine to make people in her barangay dependpent on manually pumped water. Some areas rely on and make do with the nearby estuary. Unfortunately, both sources are not the safest of water sources due to pollution. Given all these, it is understandable yet regrettable, that people in Lawa get sick at times due to poor water quality.

She may be legally blind, but Paula has never let anything faze her. Always high-spirited, she decided that the situation was untenable. Her solution? Develop a low-cost rainwater collection and filtration system for households, especially those with members from vulnerable sectors—persons with disabilities (PWDs) and senior citizens. With support from TUKLAS Innovation Labs, she launched the project under the banner of a new company, Pluvia Technologies.

TOO MUCH, TOO SCARCE

Many people have a negative connotation about rain, conjuring images of flooding and calamities. But rainwater is almost always there, and it’s free,” she said. “I wanted to make people see it as a valuable resource, not a burden.”

Indeed, too much water can be devastating. But the opposite is also true—lack of potable drinking water is a disaster in its own right. Without it, life becomes unbearable. Vulnerable sectors are forced to venture farther and farther for their drinking and hygienic needs, exposing themselves to possible violence as law and order break down. Those that remain behind get exposed to outbreaks of disease due to poor sanitation.

Given its potential exposure to disasters, Barangay Lawa was the ideal community for Pluvia’s pilot project. Natural hazards such as flooding pose a continuous threat to the area. Another source of vulnerability is the fact that only a few households are connected to the city water line. People have two options to get their fill of clean water: either wait for government rations, or buy from refilling stations. But in reality, most of them go with the third option: use manual water pumps.

For families with young children, waking up early in the morning—as early as 4AM—s a necessity if they want to avoid long queues and finish prepari ng for school or work as soon as possible.

Mirriam, a mother of eight, often worries for her daughters who fetch water in the wee hours of the morning. “They would go one by one to take a bath near the poso. I fear there might be parties who have bad motives,” she shares. She cannot always come with them as she also tenders to her other children.

Those who do fetch water from the water pumps have to go through steep, unpaved muddy slopes. Such conditions place members of marginalized sectors, such as, the elderly and PWDs at a huge disadvantage. Worse, fights may even break out as people stress and fret over the long lines.

If this is the case for a normal day, imagine how much worse the situation could get during rainy days when unpaved alleys are unpassable because of ankle-deep mud.

INNOVATION MARVEL

Pluvia’s actual rainwater collection and filtration system is a simple yet carefully-designed marvel. It is made up of several components, ranging from the rainwater catchment area to the actual water delivery system.

The first part of the setup  is the non-corrosive roof with gutter which serves to catch rainwater. It is made of asphalt, making it

cheaper than the usual aluminum roofing while being rust-proof. The material is also lightweight and resistant to strong winds.

Next up is the multiple-stage water filtration system, which uses elements such as a sediment trap and first flush system. It contains the heart of the innovation: the activated charcoal in the biofilter. Paula shared that this is the “hardware” that they specifically developed for the filtration system, with all other components coming from other suppliers. The Pluvia system, recognizing that disaster situations could mean no power at all, does not make use of electricity in filtering water.

The water then goes to storage tanks made of PVC, which can contain as much as 35 gallons of water. These tanks were placed by the Pluvia team outside or inside the house, depending on the specific preferences of the households. To ensure that PWDs and senior citizens do not have a hard time fetching water from the tanks, Pluvia added a non-kink garden hose with a jet nozzle attachment that can be connected to their faucet.

Paula notes though that rainwater is better for household use;  families would still need to boil the water collected through the Pluvia framework for five to ten minutes before it’s ready to drink.

To help families understand the innovation better, Paula also produced a manual detailing the steps on how to properly set it up and clean the system.

MAKING IT A PRIORITY

When it comes to the next steps for Pluvia, Paula has a few options laid out. Given the current trend of healthy and environment-conscious living, Pluvia is planning to target middle-class families. But Paula’s heart for service that gave birth to the project still remains.

“We are looking to partner with The Foundation for These-Abled Persons, one of our fellow TUKLAS grantees,” she said. “They have a partner community that might be interested in installing our system in a communal context, that of evacuation centers.”

Families in Barangay Lawa who were not chosen as pilot households were also interested in purchasing the system. This shows that indeed Pluvia developed a possible solution to the water access issues plaguing the community. Whether or not disasters strike, the Pluvia innovation is definitely helping make life easier for the community, especially the marginalized sectors.

When it comes to the broader impact of the project, Paula again points to the changed mindset on water collection.

“With our system, people can now passively collect water for their daily needs. This would give them more time for other DRR efforts,” she shared. “I also want to break the ‘that’s OK’ attitude that we have when it comes to water. We have to make clean water a priority.”