Civil and Environmental Engineering 24, Section 1

Providing Clean, Safe Water for Developing Countries (1 unit, P/NP)

Professor John Dracup
See days and times below. , 212 O'Brien Hall (first meeting), Class number: 35248

UNESCO and WHO report that approximately 800 children under the age of five die each day in the developing world from the lack of clean water and sanitation. This is equivalent to two Boeing 747 jet passenger planes crashing each day of the year. However, biosand, membrane and ceramic water filters are simple and cheap technologies available to mitigate this problem.

These water filters have recently become widely used in the developing world as a means of purifying drinking water for individual household use. They provide an inexpensive and effective system of removing turbidity and pathogens (i.e. viruses, bacteria and worms) from polluted water.

Biosand filters can be readily made from local sources of sand and gravel. The bio layer is located at the top of the sand column and takes up to a few weeks to grow, feeding off the influent initially poured through the sand and gravel column. The outer container can be made from plastic or concrete, materials that are commonly available in the developing world. The pipes and connections are usually made of 1-inch PVC pipes.

Membrane water filtration is a method to remove viruses, bacteria and other contaminants from water by passing raw water through a microporous membrane. Most membrane filters for drinking water start with thin semi-permeable materials made from a synthetic polymer–manufactured as flat sheet stock or as hollow fibers. Many small, individual membranes are then bundled and formed into one of hundreds of different types of membrane modules. 

Ceramic filters remove viruses, bacteria and other contaminants by passing the raw water through a wall of ceramic material.

The purpose of this class will be to construct and test three different biosand filter containers, three different membrane filters and three different ceramic filters. The class of 18 freshman students will be divided into three teams, with six students per each type of filter category. Each team will test, assess and report on its own unique filters.  

Instructor Bio

Dr. John Dracup is an Emeritus Professor in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering. His expertise is in water resource engineering and hydrology. He holds degrees from the University of Washington, Seattle; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge; and from the University of California, Berkeley.   His awards include being inaugurated into the "Order of the Black Blouse" by the Water Rights Court of Valencia, Spain; the designation of a Diplomat of the American Academy of Water Resource Engineering of the American Society of Civil Engineers; a Honorary Professorship at the Universidad Catolica St. Antonio of Murcia, Spain; and the “Agua para Todos” award from the Region of Murcia, Spain; he was a Senior Fulbright Scholar to Australia and he is a Fellow of the AGU, ASCE, AAAS and the AWRA.  He is active in providing clean water to developing countries as a volunteer for Rotary International and NGOs.

Faculty web site:


To obtain a passing grade, attendance at all of the four class meetings is mandatory. There will be no exceptions. Please check your schedule carefully before registering for this class.

This seminar is part of the following programs

Course Threads