Compact Mobile Hybrid Water Treatment Facility by Viqua Water Care Solutions
Barangay Loguingot, Estancia, Iloilo
Fidel Ramos (Team Lead), Ramon Alguidano (Alternative Energy Expert), Mary Grace Meni (Community Engagement Officer) Richard Daulo (Finance Officer)
Water is a life-saving intervention that can be provided immediately by this facility. This can treat any kind of water including sea using the hybrid system that can run through solar, grid, and generator.
A healthy and resilient community that work together for the greater accessibility of clean water for people through this mobile water treatment facility.
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The innovation team calls for the support of the government, the private sector, and the academe to further develop the product, and to replicate this same initiative to other disaster-affected communities.
09297180759 or 09266986269
It’s hard especially if you don’t have money. Even if the water that comes from our local water source isn’t that clean, there are people who take chances and make do with what is available, because they don’t have any other choice,” she says matter-of-factly.
I used to work in a water treatment company. I was inspired after the onslaught super typhoon Yolanda, when we all saw the kind of impact it had especially in Tacloban, Leyte. I said to myself that I have the capacity and the ability to help, so I should make a way to help and provide potable water to drink. From there, I began to research on how I could make myself useful doing what I know how to do. I’m just a simple person who had a dream and didn’t know how far it would reach, but here we are.
We have often heard of towns or places in the world that do not have clean water, but the reality and expense of it especially in disaster situations is staggering. Viqua Water Care Solutions developed a Compact Mobile Hybrid Water Treatment Facility, which with the use of high-pressurized submersible pumps, membranes, and ultraviolet technology among other components, allow for high-speed filtration and purification. It employs both a direct process, able to pour out clean water after the pump’s submersion, as well as storage for later use. The water treated is meant both for drinking and hygiene, and presents an immediate solution to the prevalent problem of accessing clean, safe water in times of disaster.
Dubbed the “Alaska of the Philippines,” Estancia is known to be the capital of commercial fishing, where one can find all manner of seafood that their heart desires. Here lies small island of Loguingot. It is primarily a fishing village, with majority of the 216 families on the island dependent on the sea for income. The only travel to and from Loguingot is by bangka or a local outrigger canoe. And yet, despite the presence of so much water, they live in what they call “a year-round disaster.” The island’s physical location combined with the impact of climate change has led to a dangerous lack of water for drinking and everyday use. The only time that there is a comparatively more abundant supply of water is during the rainy season, but it is not nearly enough to sustain the entire community.
Loguingot resident Cristine, who is in 12th Grade at Estancia National High School, says, “There’s water, but there’s none that we can really drink. There’s water that comes from a well, which we can use for daily things like cooking rice, washing clothes, cleaning ourselves, but there’s not a lot of it.” Fanny Delcano, a local pastor, says that it’s very rare for the water to come out clear. Much of the time, it is heavily colored either green or yellow.
How life on this tiny island has survived with such an alarming lack of a basic commodity is by families making a concentrated effort to acquire water from neighboring islands. Cristine says that she and her family fill their bangka with twelve empty containers when they make the trip to the larger island of Pa-on, which takes about twenty minutes each way. The containers take about half an hour to fill, after which they must carry them back into the boat and head back to Loguingot. This supply will last them one to two days before they have to do it again, which aside from being time-consuming and labor-intensive, is also expensive.
Delcano says that a 25-liter container of unpurified fresh water costs between 10 to 15 pesos ($0.20 to $0.30), whereas drinking water costs 35 pesos ($0.70). She starts each day rationing water for each of her three children, herself, and her husband. Delcano notes that on days where they have to wash clothes, they can use up to 10 containers, but their standard consumption is 5 containers a day. Her husband, who catches and sells shellfish, makes about 500 pesos ($10) a day on average. Roughly 150 to 200 pesos ($3 to $4) of the day’s wages, according to Delcano, goes to acquiring water elsewhere. Based on this information, we can presume that a family of five in Loguingot spends roughly 4,200 to 5,600 pesos ($84 to $112) per month on roughly eight hundred gallons of water. According to figures provided by Manila Water, in 2018, an average residence in Manila is charged 632 pesos ($12.64) a month for 30 cubic meter consumption, or about 7925 gallons. This means that in a year, the total water utility bill for a family in Manila clocks in at around 8,000 pesos ($160) or less, while one in Loguingot spends over 50,000 pesos ($1000) on water alone, before transport and labor expenses. Other possible avenues like water delivery to the island are even more expensive than the residents’ current solution, and previous attempts at water treatment like using Hyposol does not effectively desalinate brackish water.
Delcano says that she “didn’t know how to adjust” yet when they first moved to the island six years ago, but now she’s learned to use sea water—questionable cleanliness aside—for majority of the household tasks, so that their water expenses gear more towards drinking and hygiene. “It’s hard especially if you don’t have money. Even if the water that comes from our local water source isn’t that clean, there are people who take chances and make do with what is available, because they don’t have any other choice,” she says matter-of-factly.
This being the reality on Loguingot, inclement weather and unpredictable waters leave the island residents infinitely more vulnerable. During the onslaught of super typhoon Yolanda, Cristine vividly remembers their entire water supply being depleted and having to go for one full day without so much as a drop. They were also unable to cook their meals. The exposure to severe weather and the lack of clean water led Cristine’s brother to contract the flu, with no means to treat him properly. The only way they were able to refresh their water supply was by Cristine’s father heading to neighboring islands even though they were unsure if the worst of the super typhoon was over. “When I go to school, and I see how easy it is for other people who have immediate access to clean water, it makes me sad. They don’t know just how difficult it is to be without it,” Cristine says.
In disaster situations, apart from access to basic goods and necessities being exponentially limited, means livelihood is severely compromised. Destruction of infrastructure as well as property like bangkas, personal injury or contracting water-borne diseases limits the capacity of individuals within the community to pursue making an income, directly affecting their access to clean water.
An online article by the U.S. Geological Survey talks about functions of water in the body as follows: water is the first building block in every cell; it regulates internal body temperature through sweat and respiration; it metabolizes and carries carbohydrates and proteins through the bloodstream; it acts as a shock absorber for the brain, spinal cord, and fetus, just to start. Without water, bodily functions begin to break down. This is why adults consume roughly 2.5 to 3 liters a day through drinking and food intake. They also consume an additional 5 to 12 liters for hygiene and other uses.
During disasters, water sources are some of the first infrastructures to be compromised or contaminated. Viqua Water Care Solutions notes that consumption of water that falls below potable water standards leads to widespread water-borne diseases such as cholera and diarrhea on an extremely lethal scale. These tend to attack those with weaker immune systems, which means that infants, children, pregnant women, elderly, and persons with disability are likely to be among the most vulnerable. Delcano affirms that children in Loguingot have on regular occasion contracted such water-borne diseases, and much more so in times of calamity.
According to Sphere Standards, “In most disaster situations the responsibility for collecting water falls to women and children. When using communal water and sanitation facilities, for example in refugee or displaced situations, women and adolescent girls can be vulnerable to sexual violence or exploitation.” Practically speaking as well, young girls and women who may have to deal with menstruating in the midst of disaster are a high priority in terms of access to clean water for hygiene and sanitation. The change in the genitals’ pH balance during this time can be a breeding ground for bacteria, and the lack of facilities for cleansing heightens the risk of young girls and women contracting serious infections.
In the aftermath of disasters, there is a heavy dependence on incoming relief goods. But as it takes a minimum of two days to gather and distribute even in highly accessible locations, it is in this time that access to clean water spells the difference between life and death. For an isolated island such as Barangay Loguingot that already lives its day-to-day being reliant on outsourced water provision, the lives at stake are exposed to even higher risk.
“I used to work in a water treatment company. I was inspired after the onslaught super typhoon Yolanda, when we all saw the kind of impact it had especially in Tacloban, Leyte. I said to myself that I have the capacity and the ability to help, so I should make a way to help and provide potable water to drink. From there, I began to research on how I could make myself useful doing what I know how to do. I’m just a simple person who had a dream and didn’t know how far it would reach, but here we are,” says, team leader Fidel Ramos. He says he was raised in a similarly disadvantaged grassroots community in Bacoor, Cavite and understands the difficulty of going without certain basics that every human is entitled to. “When I worked in a treatment company, I saw that the main concern was profit. The solutions we were making worked, but were too expensive for those who needed it the most. I resigned and decided to put up my own business where we could make affordable solutions. I grew up with a dream, not for personal ambition, but to help others like myself.” The company name Viqua stands for “victory in water,” and the victory that comes with providing fresh water to those in need.
The Compact Mobile Hybrid Water Treatment Facility developed by Ramos and his team is designed to respond immediately, with minimal down time. In terms of its physical aspect, the facility is encased in aluminum and is set on wheels, with one larger wheel up front for easier transport. It also has handles, which make it more convenient to carry in case of uneven terrain. There are faucets connected to the collecting tank, to which a hose that comes with the system can be connected for ease of water distribution. There are lights attached for added visibility in any sort of condition, and there are illustrated instructions on the body of the facility so that anyone at any level of education or reading comprehension can understand how to use it.
As a system, it uses solar panels and a hybrid controller, in order to utilize single or simultaneous energy systems. It comes equipped with high-pressurized submersible pumps, which are to be directly submerged in any available water source. The liquid pumped through is subject to multiple stages of treatment to collect sludge, sediments, and all other contaminants. The treated water is then directed to the facility’s collecting tank, where it undergoes final processing through a combination of membranes and ultraviolet assembly, eliminating the use of chemicals in the treatment process. Because the treatment is immediate, it’s possible to assume a “plug-and-play” approach, where once the submersible pump is engaged, the faucet within the facility can be turned on and the treated water used immediately. The collecting tank was added in the design not because the treatment would take a certain amount of time, but more to address the problem of existing water sources being very limited. Having a collecting tank enables the facility to store and accumulate liquid, which makes it a more reliable source of continuous clean water.
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT AND IMPACT
Guided by human centered design approach for community engagement activities, multiple suggestions were made by the community and DRRM partners, which resulted in the following pivots:
- The use of Indigenous/local Materials for settling (stones and pebbles and sand) (children/young people).
- The change of hose in terms of the diameter of hose (Elderly Women).
- The incorporation of hose from the faucet to the containers to facilitate the receiving of water by Persons with Disability (Elderly).
- The community’s will provide drums and containers for the collection of water prior to filtration (youth).
- The youth suggested that wastewater product be used for hygiene purposes.
- The translation of Operations Manual into Hiligaynon and the incorporation of picture to illustrate the use (youth). Simplification of the manual (Elderly).
- To add warning signs and labels in the facility for guidance of the users (youth).
- The inclusion of a generator as counterpart from the Barangay as perceived by the community (Community).
- The incorporation of handles and bamboo hook at the chassis (youth).
- The installation of lights at the water outlets for visibility (Elderly Men).
- Adding front wheel in the system for easy transporting the facility from one place to another (youth).
- Taking into consideration standard in providing potable and water for hygiene (community).
- Making the system lighter than the original design (CHR 6).
- Provide test kit to the community (Comm. Noel Gaerlan of CCC).
Ramos admits that he himself was a beneficiary of the experience, and that engaging with the community taught him how beneficiaries have a deeper understanding of what it is they need than most would give them credit for. The number of suggestions that led to pivots and ultimately enriched the initial design allowed for both an end product that can be maximized by its end users, and for the community itself to gain a sense of empowerment knowing what they’ve contributed to this life-saving device.
Ramos says he noticed an impressive emergence of bayanihan (or a spirit of civic unity that leads to mutual assistance and cooperation) during the development of the device. Since the presence of the developing innovation within Loguingot, the community has been entirely cooperative, has been more aware of what practices may contribute to rising disaster risk, and has been more committed to a higher standard of overall cleanliness. This reinforced mentality of cooperation is one that the community sees as their special bonus, in addition to a physical innovation.
Delcano says that this compact facility is her answered prayer. “I’ve seen the needs of others within my community. When we heard this innovation was to be tested and developed in our town, we didn’t resist; we embraced it fully and with much excitement that the water that surrounds us might finally be of better use to us. As a woman, I feel relief that my personal hygiene no longer depends on having to go to another island, nor do I have to make my way elsewhere just to have clean water for my family.” She adds, “We are blessed to have been chosen among all those who are in need. Water equates to life, and every drop is precious to us here.”
During the rigorous tests of the device’s treatment capacity, the efficacy to treat fresh water increased from an initial 80% success rate to one of 100%. However, the desalination of seawater is an entirely separate issue, and the device still requires further calibration to reach its desired output.
Viqua Water Care Solutions has partnered with the Iloilo State University of Science and Technology (ISATU) to adopt the maintenance of the facility for their extension program. The system has been equipped with monitoring capabilities, whose data can be viewed off-site, which informs the technicians and engineers the specificities of any repairs that need to be made.
Viqua also has partner cooperatives, which will address the next phase of maximizing the device, especially in terms of additional revenue for the island. Other neighboring islands with the same water access problems as Loguingot now have an additional, closer option for purchasing clean water. Whatever income is generated in doing so goes back to the maintenance of the system’s components, which are subject to wear and tear with consistent use.