Safe Water - Advances in Purification Options

In most rural areas of Bangladesh, groundwater is used as drinking water without further treatment. However, untreated groundwater can contain and foster problematic contaminants and thus pose a public health issue. Notably, groundwater in many parts of Bangladesh is contaminated with high levels of naturally occurring arsenic, a highly toxic substance linked to various lung and cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and neurological disorders. While groundwater is generally not high in microbial contamination, unsafe storage of untreated water can foster microbial growth, leading to illness, particularly in young children. Moreover, weak water provision infrastructure leads to poor hygiene, such as inadequate hand washing. The SWAPNO project will work in rural areas of northeastern Bangladesh with high levels of arsenic contamination, providing households with a low-cost, user-friendly filtration system to remove arsenic and microbial contamination from drinking water. Furthermore, households will receive training on hand washing and hygiene practices. The proposed water filtration systems are expected to remove most contaminants from water, thereby providing household members with access to clean water. The project will assess the impact of the improved water treatment systems and hygiene measures on health, water quality, the application of hygiene practices, and the environment. For this purpose, SWAPNO will conduct quantitative and qualitative studies with household members before and after the distribution of the water filtration systems. The surveys will be conducted in Habiganj (Sylhet, Bangladesh), where previous studies by the involved partner organizations identified high level of arsenic in groundwater as well as poor infrastructure for household hygiene.

The project aims to establish a cost-effective, easy-to-use and sustainable water treatment system for the removal of multiple water contaminants at the household level. We are taking a holistic approach by considering not only drinking water, but also improving overall sanitary conditions. For this, we plan to provide easy access to clean drinking and process water in the home. In the second step, we want to investigate how these solutions affect health outcomes (e.g., diarrheal diseases). We are also evaluating environmental aspects, such as the re-usability of consumables (e.g., adsorbent media). This research will lead to a better understanding of the impact, acceptance, and use of hand washing and filtration systems for household use in infrastructure-deficient regions of South Asia.

The project is a close collaboration between PIK, the Institute of Earth Science at Heidelberg University and the German NGO Agape e.V. PIK contributes to the research project particularly in the design and evaluation of the quantitative and qualitative studies conducted in Bangladesh. This includes, among other things, the design of the data collection instruments, the data collection training as well as the supervision of data collection. Data obtained from the quantitative and qualitative studies will be analyzed and processed by PIK. A cost-benefit analysis of the improved systems will be conducted to assess the impact of the new systems for household members and the environment.


May 01, 2022 until Apr 30, 2024

Funding Agency

German Alliance for Global Health Research BMBF, PT DLR

Funding Call



Amanda Wendt