Ecofiltro is a social enterprise who provide clean drinking water for rural communities in Guatemala. Their water filters can be seen across Guatemala. We had the chance to visit the factory where their water filters are produced.
As anyone who’s spent time in Guatemala knows, you can’t drink the tap water here. While tourists can afford to buy purified bottled water, not all locals can. Just what does this mean for local Guatemalans and rural communities?
Improved sanitation and access to clean drinking water has been recognised as the greatest medical advance of our time. But, 1 in 10 people in the world don’t have access to safe drinking water. In Guatemala, purified bottled water is too large of an expense for many families. The alternative is to use firewood to boil water. But, this is also costly and further causes deforestation and environmental pollution.
For the lowest income families, drinking contaminated water is the only option. Guatemalan children often suffer intestinal problems as a result. Diarrhoea and malnutrition are two of the leading causes of death for children under five years old.
This is where Ecofiltro comes in.
Who Are Ecofiltro?
Ecofiltro started out as a foundation donating water filters to rural Guatemalan families. The aim was to give all Guatemalans access to clean drinking water. Unable to tackle the huge scale of the water problems, they evolved into a social enterprise selling water filters to urban communities to finance more affordable prices for rural communities.
Water Filters in Guatemala
In the 1980s, chlorine tablets were introduced to Guatemala to purify water and make it safe to drink. The less-than-ideal taste and scepticism amongst rural communities who had no knowledge of what exactly these tablets were, led many Guatemalans to not use them. Ecofiltro offered an alternative way to address the water crisis in Guatemala.
Water Filter Technology
Ecofiltro use a technology called ceramic pot filtration, which was developed by a Guatemalan named Fernando Mazariegos. Clay pots like the ones Ecofiltro use have roots in Guatemalan culture. Many of the older generations would store water in clay pots. The pots keep water cooler and provide a natural taste. The ceramic pot filters were culturally accepted and locals began to drink more and cleaner water.
How the Water Filters are Made
The ceramic water filters are made using 3 natural materials: clay, sawdust and colloidal silver.
Now I’m not super sciencey, but here’s how it works:
Clay creates channels inside the pot. These catch all the contaminants within the water, including bacteria and parasites.
Sawdust is dispersed by the plasticity in the clay. This is what removes the bad small and taste, leaving fresh, natural tasting water.
Colloidal silver is hand-brushed across the entire surface of the ceramic filter. This is done after it’s been fired in the kiln. Colloidal silver is what’s used to purify water and it also neutralises contaminants.
Ecofiltro Water Filter Production
The Ecofiltro factory near Antigua is where Guatemala’s Ecofiltro water filters are currently made. The factory is designed to be as environmentally-friendly as possible. They use solar energy to power everything except for the kilns. The factory is partially open, allowing the pots to be naturally wind-dried too.
The water filters are rigorously tested to check how much bacteria is filtered out. You can see them lined up in rows, dripping water down.
Artisan Designs on Ecofiltro Water Filters
Ecofiltro support local artisans by providing opportunities for them to design unique water filters. You can see many of the new artisan designs during the tour of the Ecofiltro factory. They include everything from pop art style faces and graffiti to elegant hand-drawings. The original art filters are sold to urban communities at a higher value. This helps to make the basic ones more affordable for the rural communities.
Our absolute favourite design was by self-taught Edgar Chipix. Edgar is a 23 year old Guatemalan artist from a small hamlet called Santiago Zamora. This is the beautiful water filter which he has designed:
Ecofiltro in the Community
Ecofiltro has sparked something of a water revolution in Guatemala. They’re making water filtration a sustainable solution. They achieve through supporting local communities to afford water filters and educating them in how to use them. We saw Ecofiltros across the city of Antigua. Basic filters are out on the main square in the city. High-end hotels had custom designed filters. Even the expats we were house sitting for had an Ecofiltro in their kitchen.
The water filters are now in over 1600 Guatemalan schools. 70-90 schools receive an Ecofiltro water filter each month. But, the waiting list is still really long. On top of this, 420 families buy water filters each day. The basic water filters are sold to Guatemalan families at a lower price. They can pay this in monthly instalments over 3 months with no interest.
Take an Ecofiltro Water Filter Factory Tour
If you find all this sustainable water filter technology as interesting as I do, then you can take a tour of the Ecofiltro water factory. The Ecofiltro factory is located about 15 minutes outside of Antigua. You’ll get to see the production of the ceramic water filters from start to finish. You can learn more about the water filters on the Ecofiltro website.