PROtectors in Action
In order to understand the real benefits of using PROtector water treatment systems, we need to take a look at them ‘in action’. This means an in-depth study of how the machines are received by communities, how they improve water quality, how easy they are to operate and maintain, and how durable they are ‘in the field’.



PROtector Pilot Program

Longech, Kenya

When the prototype system was first installed, treated water production was reasonable at 375-500 liters per hour (depending on the number of people operating the system) with a TDS level of 150ppm. However, in order to make production units viable, it was imperative that the PROtector engineering team increase the capacity of the prototype system.

Every day, the Longech community gather around their PROtector to pump water.

In February 2011, Director of Engineering Jim Ellis paid a second visit to Longech to implement a number of design revisions made by the engineering team during the interim months. During the planning stage of this visit, the team determined the following mission critical objectives:

  1. To optimize the treatment process;
  2. To increase the water treatment capacity, thereby reducing the cost of treatment per liter and enabling the system to provide water to larger communities over shorter periods of time;
  3. To increase the life of the RO membranes in the system, thereby reducing the cost of maintenance;
  4. To improve reliability under high stress conditions;
  5. To simplify operation and maintenance; and
  6. To revise the prototype design in a manner that would decrease the cost of future production models, without compromising the other objectives.

It was determined that if Jim Ellis was unable to accomplish any one of these objectives, then the mission would be considered a failure.

The first, and arguably the most important revision to the prototype design was the manufacture of a new shaft and handle assembly. When the prototype was first conceptualized, it was anticipated that under typical operating conditions, no more than four people would be pushing the handle at any given time. In reality it was not uncommon for eight or more adults to team up during busy times of the day. Although the Longech community spirit increased treated water output, it also took a significant toll on the bolted connection between the handle spindle and the shaft. The continual replacement of these bolts was clearly unacceptable for a system that had otherwise been designed to last more than 15-20 years under field conditions.

The new two-part flanged and hardened shaft was flown into Kenya from the US and forwarded to Longech by PROtector Treatment System's regional team in Nairobi. The old shaft was removed and the lower section of the new shaft was inserted in its place. The upper section of the new shaft and the center section of the handle were taken to the local town of Lodwar where the spindle was split, the new shaft inserted, and welded in place. The new design moves the handle/shaft assembly joint from the relatively weak spindle of the handle to the flanged joint in the shaft which was purposely designed to withstand an immense amount of torque and 'impact loading'.

The second design revision was to replace a carbon steel system component, with a polypropylene equivalent. The aggressive nature of the brackish raw water had proven too corrosive for the carbon steel. Polypropylene is an inert material, and is not affected by brackish or saline water. This revision will result in a significant saving in material costs, lowering the cost of future systems.

The original design specification of the prototype featured a number of standard filters as part of the pre-filtration process. However, they were found to severely restrict the flow of water through the system and into the RO membranes. As they were selected for their bacteria killing properties (and not their filtration capacity), it was decided that they should be replaced with an alternative, specialized filtration process designed by the PROtector team. This process not only maintains a bacteria free environment within the system, but it also helps to reduce the scaling of the final stage RO membrane elements which increases their efficiency and lifespan. The prototype output increased significantly after this modification, lowering the treatment cost per liter. The longer lifespan of the membranes will result in a significant reduction in ongoing operational costs.

One problem faced by the design team when devising the original prototype design specification, was the issue of cleaning the standard filters. The solution was an elaborate set up of six different valves that allowed the community to perform a cleaning procedure using the unit itself. With the standard filters removed there was no longer a need for the cleaning facility. The prototype now uses only two adjustable valves, both of which are operated from the control panel: One valve is used to adjust the back-pressure of the membranes, and the other is used to bypass the treatment system altogether, allowing raw well water to be drawn directly from the well for non-potable uses such as washing and cleaning. This facility was installed at the request of the community, and Oxfam will monitor its usage to determine whether it works well or proves to be impractical during high use periods of the day. The simplification of the system not only reduces material and labor costs of future systems, but should also increase long-term system reliability.

Under the new design specifications, the only components of the prototype system that require regular cleaning are the RO membranes. The large chemical tank in the original design specification was replaced with a smaller, inline cleaning system. The cleaning process has been greatly simplified using an inexpensive, locally available cleaning agent. Again, the revision not only reduces material and labor costs of future systems, but also greatly simplifies system maintenance.

With the exception of the fabrication of the two-part shaft, all modifications were carried out in field conditions in Turkana, utilizing local resources and labor to great effect.

Following the field modifications, the treated water production under the revised design specification increased to 750–1,000 liters per hour with a TDS level of <100ppm. Incredibly, this is double the amount produced by the prototype under the original design specification! The level of fluoride in the product water improved from 1.3ppm in September, to <1ppm in February (the safe limit of fluoride in drinking water is 1.5ppm according to WHO).

These results show that our field modifications were carried out effectively, meaning that all of our critical objectives were met and the mission was a complete success! Not only is this testimony to the maintainability of the PROtector under harsh conditions, but also to the strength of the partnership that has grown between PROtector Systems, Oxfam GB and of course the community of Longech. The pilot program would not continue to be a success without all parties working as one towards a common goal.

During the upcoming weeks, the PROtector team will finalize the design specification of the production PROtector models based on the revised specification of the Longech prototype system. The team will also begin discussions with various organizations about a number of proposed PROtector programs around the world.

Children playing with fresh, sweet water produced by the Longech community PROtector

The Problem:
According to the UN, water-related diseases are the leading cause of death in the world, taking the lives of more than 6,000 people every day. Such diseases are contracted from drinking unsafe, contaminated water  in  locations where
  adequate treatment is either unpractical or unaffordable. The total number of people around the globe without sustainable access to safe drinking water currently stands
  at over 1 billion - a shocking figure which equals one sixth of the world's population. Whilst the common consensus is to dig wells and drill boreholes, the extracted water is often brackish (salty) due to having a high mineral content – and in many parts of the world, groundwater contains harmful ‘dissolved’ contaminants such as fluoride and arsenic. Furthermore, boreholes, wells and underground storage tanks are prone to contamination from surface run off, sewage and seawater- especially in the wake of a storm, flood, earthquake or other natural disaster.

PROTECTOR water purification systems are able to extract and treat water directly from boreholes, wells, streams, rivers and lakes. The systems use both ceramic and reverse osmosis (RO) filters to remove contaminants such as silt, colloidal particles, bacteria, viruses, protozoa, cysts, metals, fluoride and arsenic. This degree of filtration is also able to reduce salt from brackish water sources, to safe and palatable levels.

  Continue reading about PROtector Design...


Don't have time to find out more about the PROtector online? Grab a copy of our PDF documents and read them on the go!

PROtector Brochure

A general overview of the PROtector hand-powered water treatment system and what it is capable of.

Program Proposal

An example PROtector program proposal. This document is annotated with instructions on how to create a proposal for your PROtector program. An editable Microsoft Word version is also available.

Pilot Program Six Month Progress Report

Catch up on the latest from the PROtector pilot installation in Longech, Kenya in this exciting report.

PROtector Prgram Management White Paper

A guide aimed at helping organizations to establish a successful protector program. This white paper contains procedures for system monitoring, maintenance, reporting, troubleshooting and repair.

To download the above PDF's, right click on the file and select "save as".