Choosing a Topic For Capstone

I have started Capstone which is a 5th-grade project where you share something that you are passionate about so that you enjoy doing it.

At first, I chose Artificial Intelligence for my Capstone project, but then thinking about it some more, I decided to choose a topic through which I could potentially help some people. The topic I now have chosen for my project is “Effective Water Treatment Methods In Developing Countries”. The reason I choose this topic is that more than 750 million people in the world don’t have access to safe water – that is two and a half times the population of the United States; and globally one-third of all schools lack access to safe water and adequate sanitation. Sixty percent of the human body is made of water and drinking contaminated water can cause many serious diseases such as Diarrheal, Cholera, Typhoid, Dysentery, and Guinea worm disease. The map below shows the water stress level in the world.

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The first step to start my project is to generate questions so I will cover my whole topic and not miss out on anything. The questions have rankings from one as the worst to four as the best. My goal is to get my best two questions to earn a three or a four.

My two main questions are:

  1. What are some effective water treatment methods to clean water in communities in developing countries? What are their pros and cons and what can countries, companies, and individuals do to help?

Some of my additional questions are:

  1. How is water distributed to people in developing countries?
  2. What are some examples of areas where there is limited clean water and reasons for  – large population, water pollution, poor sanitation, no access to water treatment technologies, no funds and education to implement water treatment?
  3. What are the most harmful chemicals and bacteria in water that is harmful to the human body?
  4. What are some of the methods to test the clean water?

I am really curious and excited to start my research project on water treatment in developing countries. This summer, I am going to India for a couple of weeks and I would like to use the findings of my research project to help some of the poor communities get access to clean water and proper sanitation.



Capstone Interview

I email interviewed Hrithik Sharma at YES Bank in Mumbai, India. YES Bank, based on the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative in India, has installed Livinguard water filtration systems to provide safe and clean drinking water for free in more than 600 railway stations in India.  These systems do not need electricity

(Bold are my questions; Italicized are Hrithik’s responses)

There are some innovative filtration systems that are being used to effectively purify water, without using electricity. Let me introduce you to one of most innovative filtration systems known to me till date, called Livinguard, manufactured by an organization called Livinguard J. This is a mechanical filtration system. The microorganisms (small germs) present in the water, when get in contact with a special filtration fabric (cloth), get deactivated, making the water fit for drinking. The good thing about this system is that it doesn’t use electricity (except for the purpose of cleaning itself). Amazing, isn’t it

Have you faced any challenges with the Livinguard systems, and if so what?

There is no direct challenge with the system as such, but regular maintenance and upkeep is requi red to ensure seamless functionality, which YES BANK takes care of pretty well.

How many Livinguard units has Yes Bank installed and how many more are you thinking of installing?

YES BANK has, so far, installed 697 units at different railway stations in India, 155 units at community locations in Maharashtra and additional 7-10 units at other locations including government schools. We do intend to install more filters in future, the scale has not been decided, as yet.

In what other situations (outside of railway stations) could the Livinguard system be used?

Livinguard technology and systems could be used for filtration from household to large water treatment plants. So, consider this as a normal, mechanical water filter which can be installed practically anywhere. YES BANK decided to install it at select (small) railway stations because of the lack of availability of safe & clean drinking water at such stations in India.

What is the water source that is being used to feed the Livinguard system to filter the water (surface water, ground water, etc.)? 

Primarily, the water supply provided by municipal corporation is the source of water (government water supply).

How much water can one Livinguard system clean in an hour?

There are different models of Livinguard available, as per the capacity required. The system capacity varies from 33 Litres per hour (LPH) to 100, 300, 500, 2000 LPH.

How much water is fed to the Livinguard systems and how much is filtered?

Livinguard uses zero water wastage technology. How cool is that?!

What are some of the advantages and limitations of the Livinguard compared to other cost effective alternatives in the local market?

Livinguard solution is one of the best in the Indian market, in the given cost range for water treatment. It doesn’t use any electricity (except for filter cleaning) and purifies water pretty efficiently. That only limitation is that the system can clean water that is NOT excessively impure.

What is the entire process flow of the water coming from the water source going all the way to the taps in the railway stations?

Water flows from the overhead tank (which gets filled by government water supply), to the filter for filtration, and then dispensed through the filter tap.

Do you know of other systems Yes Bank evaluated for water filtration?



Capstone Site Visit

On May 24, I went to a water treatment plant. This water filtration plant was in Millwood. I met both of the plant managers there and learned how their filtration plant works.

The filtration plant in Millwood which was a world-class facility, and supplied water to people in New Castle. It was a state-of-the-art facility. It serves 26,000 people and is run by seven people from a company called Suez. The facility treats on average 3.7 million gpd (gallons per day) and has a capacity of 10 million gpd. In 1960, the EPA passed a regulation that all surface water needs to be filtered. Before 1960 the town just added chlorine and used pumps to send water to homes. This facility was built in 1993.

The raw water comes from the Ashokan Reservoir or Catskill System, which serves 90% of the water for all of New York. Water comes from the Catskill or Ashokan Reservoir through 17 feet wide aqueducts. Water flows into the facility by gravity from the Catskill Aqueduct.

They had five main steps for filtering water going to people’s homes.

  1. First, coagulants such as alum, chlorine, and potassium permanganate are added into 3 rapid mixers that disperse the chemicals nicely into the water for a minute.
  2. Next, 3 flocculators gently mix the water with coagulants that make particles such as clay, silts, viruses, bacteria, minerals, and algae stick together into large masses called flocs. See this video below to see the floc formation and separation:

  1. After that, Dissolved Air Flotation (DAF) is used to move the floc and clarify the water. This system uses tiny bubbles of dissolved air, which are injected into the water to float the floc to the surface so it can be skimmed from the top. By this stage, the water is already 95% clean.
  2. Later, the water goes through an ozonation process.  Ozone that is generated at the treatment plant from the air, is injected into the clarified water. The ozone oxidized any organic matter in the water killing bacteria, viruses, algae and other microorganisms. Ozone is one of the most powerful disinfectants but is also very expensive. Using the ozone reduced the need for chlorine, which can produce harmful by-products.
  3. Lastly, the water passes through 6 filters that are made of 24″ anthracite coal and sand to remove any remaining particles or floc. The filters run for 400 hours before they are backwashed.

After the steps above, some chlorine and caustic soda are added to the water and ph adjusted to about 7.5. Also, corrosion inhibitors are added to the water before that are sent to pipes to avoid lead getting into the water from the pipes.

It takes 14 hours for the water to get from the reservoir to the plant, and about 2 hours for the water treatment process. Water quality and turbidity are tested at 6 different points, every 4 hours. The turbidity of raw water the day I visited was 1.28 NTU (Nephelometric Turbidity Unit) and that of the treated water was 0.02.  The maximum turbidity level for filtered water in New York is 0.3 NTU.

This site visit was a great learning experience for me and I now understand much better water sources, water filtration methods, how water gets from various sources to our houses, and how to measure the quality of water. I also learned that New York has the cleanest water in the world. They call it “the champagne of water”.


Conclusion and Reflection

Other organizations evaluated include Swajal, Sarvajal, Janajal, and WHI.

Water is vital to sustaining life and human health.

We can all do our part in conserving and reusing water, and also by expressing an opinion against pollution of water sources. Governments need to invest in appropriate infrastructure. We do not want to fall victims to lack of potable water. The poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” warns us “Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.”

I intend to visit a few villages in India during my trip in July 2018 to learn about the challenges, and: (1) donate some effective water treatment systems in rural areas, (2) educate them about water problems, and (3) try to help raise money from large companies and help build infrastructure in the poorest areas in the world.

Some challenges were that I was very nervous since a lot of parents were there and my presentation was a little long and I didn’t want to mess up. Fortunately, I did really good and didn’t mess up. I learned about the horrible problems with water treatment in developing countries, how to solve them with different water filtration devices, what is happening to people, and what other people are doing right now to help put an end to this crisis.

This has been a great journey and I hope to learn more about this topic.

To learn more about my topic, watch my slideshow below: