Sawyer Bucket Filter Assembly and Maintenance

Watch this video to see how to set up and maintain your sawyer bucket filter.

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Donate to provide a Sawyer water filter for people in need of clean drinking water.

Sawyer water filters can be purchased from Amazon:

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How to choose the best drinking water filters

Water filters can remove or reduce the myriad of chemicals that contaminate our nation’s drinking water, some of which are linked to cancer and endocrine disruption. 

In this YouTube video EWG explains: how to choose the best water filters.

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Jamaica Youth Trained in Organic Agriculture

2017 12-05 Harambe Newsletter, p9-10


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Students trained in organic farming and dowsing | Earth Water Alliance

Earth Water Alliance member trains Jamaican students in organic farming and dowsing methods

The Rita Marley Foundation recently conducted organic farming training programs for high school and kindergarten students. A total of 105 high school students in Clarendon, Jamaica received instruction on the practices of organic farming and dowsing from US-based agricultural consultant Steven Herbert, a water resource consultant for Earth Water Alliance.

Organic farming works in unison with nature by replacing chemical treatments with natural methods. Emphasis is on building soil, boosting its organic content, and encouraging proliferation of soil biology.

Students were also taught the art of dowsing, a method of locating water with L-rods or other dowsing tools. Dowsing assists with gaining information about nutrient levels, necessary fertilizers, amendments, and optimal planting locations.

Read more in this article published by Loop News of Jamaica.

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Donate Filters for Clean Water for Puerto Rico

One bucket adapter filter kit could provide clean water for 100 people for pennies a day.

Donate filters for Clean Water for Puerto Rico at EarthWaterAlliance

Simple to Use

As simple as it gets with no expensive cartridges to replace or chemicals to add. A bucket filter can be constructed in minutes. The bucket adapter kit includes everything needed to attach the filter to any plastic bucket or container. Each kit includes a 0.1 micron hollow-fiber membrane filter, one bucket hole cutter, a filter cleaner syringe, a filter hanger, and one adapter hose (bucket is not included). No pumping, chemicals, or electricity required.

Installation Instructions:

  1. Obtain a clean rain barrel, bucket, or plastic container.
  2. Use the hole cutter to drill a hole 1.5 inches from the bottom of the bucket (you can do this by hand).
  3. Screw the connector, hose and filter onto the bucket.
  4. Connect the hose.
  5. Snap the hose into the filter.
  6. Fill the bucket with water from any source.
  7. Lower the filter head below the water line in the bucket and let gravity do the rest.
  8. To stop filtering, just hang the filter from the top of the bucket using the filter hanger.


When the water from the filter starts to slow down, simply back wash it with clean water using the filter cleaner syringe provided in the kit. Filters can continuously be back washed and reused to provide approximately 170 gallons of water per day and 1 million gallons of water per filter.

Effective against waterborne disease

With its 0.01 micron absolution filtration, the Sawyer filter removes 99.99999% of bacteria and 99.9999% of protozoa/cysts.

Donate Filters for Clean Water for Puerto Rico

100% of donations for Puerto Rico to EarthWaterAlliance go directly to provide water filters to people in desperate need of clean, safe water.

Potential impact:

100 people per filter.

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Distillation Can Remove Contaminates from Drinking Water

With increasing concerns about contaminants in water that may affect health, distillation can remove contaminates from drinking water.

Distillation is an effective method for removing most contaminates

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: “Distillation is an effective water treatment technology for commercial and household use. When water is purified by distillation, it is boiled in a container and the steam is sent into cooling tubes. The steam is condensed and then collected as purified water in a second container. The impurities in the water are left behind in the first container and can be discarded. The distillation process removes almost all impurities from water. Distillers are commonly used for removing nitrates, bacteria, sodium, hardness, dissolved solids, most organic compounds, and lead. Contaminants that easily turn into gases, such as gasoline components or radon, may remain in the water unless the system is specifically designed to remove them. Distilled water may taste flat to some people because the water’s natural minerals and dissolved oxygen often have been removed.”

Contaminants Removed from Water by Distillation

Distillation can remove most impurities from water. Compounds removed include sodium, hardness compounds such as calcium and magnesium, other dissolved solids including iron and manganese, fluoride, and nitrate. Distillation effectively inactivates microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, and protozoan cysts. Distillation can also remove many organic compounds and heavy metals.

Contaminants Not Removed from Water by Distillation

Depending on the contaminates, a combination of treatment processes may be required to effectively treat the water. Certain pesticides, volatile solvents, and volatile organic compounds with boiling points close to or below that of water will vaporize along with the water as it is boiled in the distiller. These compounds will not be completely removed unless another process is used prior to condensation.

Treatment Principles

Distillers use heat to boil contaminated water and produce steam. Impurities such as inorganic compounds and large non-volatile organic compounds are not vaporized and are left behind in the boiling chamber. The heat inactivates bacteria, viruses, and protozoan cysts. The steam rises and enters a cooling section. When the steam cools, it condenses back to a liquid. The resulting water can have up to 99.5 percent of impurities removed. The water remaining in the boiling chamber has a much higher concentration of impurities and should be discarded.

Since volatile organic compounds can also vaporize­ as the water is boiled and turned to steam, methods for removing them can be incorporated into the system. Distillers that use a combination of removal methods are more efficient than those with a single method. section

Remove Contaminates using Distillation
Diagram courtesy of North Dakota State University Extension Service

Incorporating gas vents (small holes in the passage leading to the condensing coils) can allow volatile organic compounds to escape before entering the cooling section.

Another option is to use an activated carbon filter to remove volatile organic compounds from the condensed water before they enter the storage tank.


In and emergency, a simple distiller can be made using a pot and stove or a pot and solar energy. See “Distill Water Using a Pot and Stove” and “Solar Desalination for Drinking Water.”

In summary, distillation can remove contaminates from drinking water and is an effective solution in emergency situations.

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Distill Water Using a Pot and Stove

How to Distill Water Using a Pot and Stove

Distilled Water is water that has had many of its impurities removed through the process of boiling the water and collecting the resulting steam. In an emergency, the following is a simple method to obtain drinking water from contaminated water is to distill water using a pot and stove follows:

Get a large pot with a lid and an empty drinking cup. 

  • The glass should be big enough to hold a fair amount of fresh water.
  • Make sure the glass is short enough that you can still put the lid on the pot.
  • A Pyrex or metal cup is safest, as certain types of glass will explode when exposed to heat. Plastic may melt or deform.
  • Make sure the pot and lid are suitable for using on a stove.

Slowly pour the contaminated water into the pot. 

  • Do not overfill. Stop well before the water level has reached the mouth of the glass.
  • Make sure no contaminated water splashes into the glass while boiling. You don’t want to get any contaminated water into the drinking glass, or your newly made distilled water will be contaminated.

Place the pot, cover upside down on the pot. 

  • Position the pot lid so the highest point or handle is facing down directly above the glass. This will allow the water vapor to drip into the drinking glass as it condenses.
  • Make sure the pot lid is providing a good seal along the edges of the pot. Without a good seal, a lot of the steam will escape and diminish the supply of fresh water vapor.

Bring the water to a slow boil over low heat. 

  • Make sure you bring the water to a boil slowly over low heat. A violent full boil can contaminate the drinking water by splashing into the glass.
  • Too much heat can cause a glass to break.
  • If the water is boiling quickly and violently, the glass may shift away from the center of the pot and the handle of the pot lid.

Watch the pot as the water condenses. 

  • When water boils, it becomes pure vapour, leaving behind anything that was dissolved in it.
  • As the water becomes vapor, it condenses in the air as steam and then on the cover’s bottom surface as water droplets.
  • The droplets then run down to the lowest point (the handle) and drip right into the glass.
  • This will probably take 20 minutes or more.

Wait a little while before drinking the water. 

  • The glass and water will be very hot.
  • There may be a small amount of contaminated water left in the pot, so be careful when removing the glass of distilled water not to splash any contaminated water into your fresh water.
  • You might find that the glass and fresh water will cool faster if you remove it from the pot.
  • Be careful as you remove the glass so you don’t get burnt. Use an oven mitt or potholder to take it out.

In an emergency, a simple, effective method to obtain drinking water from contaminated water is to distill water using a pot and stove.



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Solar Desalination for Drinking Water

In an emergency, solar desalination is an effective way to obtain drinking water from salt water.

Solar Desalination Process:

1. Collect salt water in a bowl or container. 

  • Make sure you don’t fill it up all the way.
  • You will need some space at the top of the bowl so that the salt water doesn’t splash into your fresh water receptacle.
  • Make sure your bowl or container is watertight. If it is leaking, your salt water will drain away before it can form steam to condense as fresh water.
  • Make sure you have plenty of sunlight as this method takes several hours.

2. Place a cup or smaller container in the center. 

  • Do this slowly, If you do this quickly, you might get some salt water splash into your cup. This will contaminate your fresh water as you collect it.
  • Make sure the lip of the glass remains above water.
  • You might need to weight it down with a rock to prevent it from sliding around.

3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. 

  • Make sure the wrap isn’t too loose or too tight. 
  • Be sure that the plastic wrap has a tight seal on the rim of the salt water bowl.
  • If there are any leaks in the plastic wrap, steam or fresh water vapor might escape.
  • Use a sturdy brand of plastic wrap so it doesn’t tear.

4. Place a rock or weight in the center of the plastic wrap. 

  • Do this just above the cup or container in the centre of the bowl. 
  • This will cause the plastic wrap to dip in the centre, allowing fresh water to drip into your cup.
  • Make sure your rock or weight isn’t too heavy or it will tear the plastic wrap.
  • Make sure the cup is in the centre of the bowl before continuing.

5. Place the salt water bowl in directly sunlight. 

  • This will heat the water and cause condensation to form on the plastic wrap.
  • As condensation forms, fresh water droplets will drip from the plastic wrap into the cup.
  • This will allow you to slowly collect fresh water.
  • This method takes several hours so be patient.

After you have enough fresh water in your cup, you can drink it. It is safe and completely desalinated. Solar desalination is an effective way to obtain drinking water from salt water.


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Composting Toilets Save Water and Improve the Environment – an alternative to flush toilets

Composting Toilets Save Water and Improve the Environment – an alternative to flush toilets

Per capita consumption of water in the US is three times that of the average European and fifteen times that of the typical person residing in a developing country. Of all the potable water that comes into the average American household, fully a third gets flushed down the toilet. With worldwide average consumption rates rising twice as fast as population, and population projected to double in forty years, it’s plain to see that flushing will be a luxury we can no longer afford. Water is essential to life, but with this gift comes the responsibility to promote sustainable use of this precious resource. Composting toilets save water and provide an environmentally compatible alternative to flush toilets.

Supplies may be increased by dowsing for water, rainwater harvesting, or desalinization. However, it is better to conserve water in the first place. Agricultural practices may lose up to half of the irrigation water in the process of distribution to evaporation and runoff. More efficient methods such as drip irrigation can make a big difference. Industry can potentially save a lot through water reuse. Within the home, more efficient washers, dishwashers and low-flush toilets can reduce water usage significantly. The practice of “cascading”, or reusing dishpan or shower warm-up water in the toilet bowl or on outside plants can save more. But, the biggest savings can be realized by eliminating flushing altogether.

Composting toilets and latrine systems are a viable, environmentally compatible alternative to flush toilets. This technology may enable you to avoid building an expensive mound system while enriching your soils.

Design Decisions

Once you decide to install a composting toilet, there are several design decisions that must be considered to determine the best solution for your particular circumstances. The elements of a composting toilet must be designed to either passively or actively manage oxygen levels, temperature, moisture, carbon to nitrogen ratios, and pathogen levels. You will also need to determine whether to purchase a pre-manufactured model or to custom-design a site-built unit,

Pre-manufactured models

Pre-manufactured self contained toilet

Pre-manufactured, self-contained units come with a variety of features, needing only to be hooked up to a ventilation system. Some designs may be fully adequate for year-round continual use. They may be single or multi-chambered, require electricity for heating and aeration, or be totally non-electric. Models are available that dehydrate or incinerate the contents, but these are not truly composting.

The centralized Clivis Multrum model, features a large continuous-use system. Centralized or remote means that the bowl is on the main floor and the actual composting unit is in the basement. In this design, fresh material is deposited on top and finished compost is removed from the bottom of an inclined chamber. Material going in includes both feces and urine since it is not urine-separating. The Phoenix system features a vertical chamber, and the manufacturer claims its design efficiently prevent contamination of lower layers with fresh deposits. If the unit is to be used continuously, especially by a large family, a multi-chambered model may be recommended. However, most pre-manufactured remote systems are only offered in a single vault option.

Refer to our article titled Composting Toilets – Decisions, Decisions for links to some popular manufacturers of pre-manufactured models.

Homemade models

Site Built Composting Toilet Saves Water
Site built composting toilet

A pre-manufactured, self-contained composting toilet costs at least $1,400. However, a homemade unit can be built for much less. Site-built systems are only as expensive as materials and construction costs. If recycled materials are used, a composting toilet can be built for minimal cost other than the time it takes to build and install the unit.

Double vault composting toilets

Double vault composting toilets save water
Double vault composting toilet built in Honduras

All of the composting latrines I designed and built in Africa and Latin America are double-vault, fixed-batch systems. The larger-sized vault, was made out of rammed-earth, ferro-cement, or brick. It had one and a half cubic meter capacity which was enough for a large extended family or small school. A smaller version for an average-sized family featured a one cubic meter vault. In both styles, a stool or stoop plate was mounted over each vault. It might take a year to fill up one vault, at which time the use is switched to the second, leaving the contents of the first to “cure” undisturbed. By the time

the second vault is filled at the end of the following year, the first is ready to be emptied and reused.

There are alternatives, however, to dual vaults built permanently side by side. Another variation is a composting unit with multiple chambers which can rotate each time one is filled. Also, a single stationary unit may be designed to accept removable bins.

Determining the size of a composting toilet

If the composting toilet is operating ideally, the contents should be fully composted with all pathogens destroyed by the end of six weeks. To calculate the capacity of each vault, allow for twice as much time. Thus, allow at least three months.

Certain factors should be considered when making these calculations. Will the use be seasonal or year-round? Will it mainly be day-use only or continuous use? (Day use tends to accumulate a much higher percentage of urine by comparison.) Here are the relevant statistics you will need. One person produces 40.6 fluid oz.s (1.2 liters) of urine per day. The same person also produces 20.3 fluid oz.s (.61 liters) per day of feces. Over a full year, that amounts to 155.8 gallons of urine and 57.9 gallons of feces, or a total of 1,300 lbs. of excrement. In terms of volume, that represents 20.8 cubic feet (.6 m3) of urine and 7.7 cubic feet (.2 m3) of feces per average person per year. Keep in mind that the volume of the contents will constantly decrease during the composting process. In fact, the volume will decrease to as little as ten to thirty percent of its original volume by the end of the incubation period.

Controlling odor

In tropical climates, the design may be able to operate passively. In temperate climates, the design may need to be more of an active one. This means a small electric fan installed in the vent pipe is needed to increase the efficiency of aeration and an artificial heat source may be required to keep the contents above “biological zero” (42 degrees Fahrenheit) to speed composting. For every ten degrees Celcius rise in temperature, the composting rate doubles. This is known as the Q10 temperature coefficient. Different microorganisms operate at different temperatures. From 42 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit, actinomycetes and fungi dominate in psychrophilic or mouldering processing. At 68 to 112 degrees Fahrenheit, mesophilic bacteria operate under most typical conditions. Between 113 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, thermophilic bacteria take precedence.

The reason for aerating is partly to evaporate liquids, but most importantly to encourage aerobic decomposition. It is the anaerobic bacteria which are mainly the pathogenic and odor-causing microorganisms. Beneficial aerobic bacteria thrive in the higher oxygen and temperature levels which destroy the anaerobic organisms. If a composting unit is operating efficiently and is well ventilated, there should be no noticeable odor detectable from above. 

Urine Separation

Another design decision is whether to separate out urine or not. There are several advantages to separation. First, it reduces moisture levels in the compost, hopefully to the ideal consistency of a well wrung out sponge. Second, it prevents the ratio of nitrogen to carbon from becoming too high. This is another cause of odors. Third, it will minimize the amount of effluent you need to deal with. Urine separated out may be directed to an outside charcoal or limestone-filled soak-pit. It may also be directed to a conventional septic system or stored in a tank. The tank may be emptied periodically by a collection service, or used on trees, flowers or other non-food plants. Human urine is relatively sterile and actually has more nutrients than the feces, but it also has a high salt content.

Urine separating composting toilet seat
Urine separating composting toilet seat

Urine-separating seats may be purchased to mount on your custom-made bench, or the entire bowl can be ordered if preferred. When seated, the urine is directed forward to be captured and drained separately. If there is enough room, a separate waterless urinal can be installed to supplement the composting toilet.

Composting Chamber

Finally, it is advisable to construct the inside of the composting chamber with a slightly sloped floor so that the minimal leachate produced may drain toward a collection device. Radiant heat may be designed into this floor. Otherwise, a submersible aquarium heater, a light bulb in a fire-proof box, a heat tape, or waste heat from a dryer duct may be installed to warm the contents. Build the unit a foot or so off the floor in case of flooding, and naturally, install an access port for removing contents and another for inspection or turning contents.

Conclusion – composting toilets save water

Considering an alternative to the flush toilet is not just a good idea to make us less vulnerable to infrastructure collapse, it is also an environmental advantage with regard to water conservation and soil enhancement. Composting toilets are an environmentally friendly solution for water scarce locations. They are a sanitary alternative to pit latrines, are more economical than mound systems, and produce garden quality compost for soil enrichment. Dry composting toilets save water and improve the environment by providing an alternative to flush toilets. 

© 2017 Earth Water Alliance, Inc.

submitted by Steven Herbert, Water Resource Consultant


To contribute towards the installation of composting toilet systems for water challenged populations, make a donation to Earth Water Alliance – Intuitive Soul-utions for Water Resources.


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Composting Toilets – Decisions, Decisions

Composting toilets and latrine systems are an environmentally compatible alternative to flush toilets and centralized sewage treatment centers. The following is an outline of the decisions required during the selection or design process.

Your initial decision is whether to purchase a pre-manufactured system or to custom build your own design. If you decide to purchase, then:

  • There are many brands to choose from including: Clovis Multrum, PhoenixCTS, Envirolet, Sun-Mar, Nature-Loo, Rota-Loo, EcoTech, and Biolet. Typically, these can be purchased either directly from the manufacturer or from a local dealer.
  • The second decision is whether to have a self-contained unit or one which is centralized. The self-contained unit is easily portable and is generally used when there is no basement and use is seasonal or sporadic. A centralized system features a permanently mounted stool with the composting unit remotely placed in the basement or floor below.

If you choose to design and build your own system, then:

  • The first decision is whether the composting toilet will have a single vault with removable bins or two chambers for alternating use. If the unit is to be used continuously, especially by a family, the latter model may be necessary.
  • The next major design decision is whether to separate out urine or not. There are several advantages to separation including: reduction of moisture levels, improved nitrogen to carbon levels, reduced odor, and flies are not attracted.
  • Finally, elements of a composting toilet system must be designed to either passively or actively manage oxygen levels, temperature, moisture, carbon to nitrogen ratios, and pathogen levels.

Upcoming articles will explore various composting toilet and latrine designs.

© 2017 Steven Herbert

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