Please wait a minute...

Frontiers of Environmental Science & Engineering

Front. Environ. Sci. Eng.    2020, Vol. 14 Issue (5) : 79
Ceramic water filter for point-of-use water treatment in developing countries: Principles, challenges and opportunities
Haiyan Yang1,2, Shangping Xu3, Derek E. Chitwood4, Yin Wang5()
1. SCNU Environmental Research Institute, Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Chemical Pollution and Environmental Safety & MOE Key Laboratory of Theoretical Chemistry of Environment, South China Normal University, Guangzhou 510006, China
2. School of Environment, South China Normal University, University Town, Guangzhou 510006, China
3. Department of Geosciences, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI 53211, USA
4. Department of Engineering, Dordt University, Sioux Center, IA 51250, USA
5. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI 53211, USA
Download: PDF(601 KB)   HTML
Export: BibTeX | EndNote | Reference Manager | ProCite | RefWorks

• CWF is a sustainable POU water treatment method for developing areas.

• CWF manufacturing process is critical for its filtration performance.

• Simultaneous increase of flow rate and pathogen removal is a challenge.

• Control of pore size distribution holds promises to improve CWF efficiency.

• Novel coatings of CWFs are a promising method to improve contaminant removal.

Drinking water source contamination poses a great threat to human health in developing countries. Point-of-use (POU) water treatment techniques, which improve drinking water quality at the household level, offer an affordable and convenient way to obtain safe drinking water and thus can reduce the outbreaks of waterborne diseases. Ceramic water filters (CWFs), fabricated from locally sourced materials and manufactured by local labor, are one of the most socially acceptable POU water treatment technologies because of their effectiveness, low-cost and ease of use. This review concisely summarizes the critical factors that influence the performance of CWFs, including (1) CWF manufacturing process (raw material selection, firing process, silver impregnation), and (2) source water quality. Then, an in-depth discussion is presented with emphasis on key research efforts to address two major challenges of conventional CWFs, including (1) simultaneous increase of filter flow rate and bacterial removal efficiency, and (2) removal of various concerning pollutants, such as viruses and metal(loid)s. To promote the application of CWFs, future research directions can focus on: (1) investigation of pore size distribution and pore structure to achieve higher flow rates and effective pathogen removal by elucidating pathogen transport in porous ceramic and adjusting manufacture parameters; and (2) exploration of new surface modification approaches with enhanced interaction between a variety of contaminants and ceramic surfaces.

Keywords Point-of-use water treatment      Ceramic water filter      Bacterial removal      Surface modification      Water quality     
This article is part of themed collection: Accounts of Aquatic Chemistry and Technology Research (Responsible Editors: Jinyong Liu, Haoran Wei & Yin Wang)
Corresponding Author(s): Yin Wang   
Issue Date: 14 May 2020
 Cite this article:   
Haiyan Yang,Shangping Xu,Derek E. Chitwood, et al. Ceramic water filter for point-of-use water treatment in developing countries: Principles, challenges and opportunities[J]. Front. Environ. Sci. Eng., 2020, 14(5): 79.
E-mail this article
E-mail Alert
Articles by authors
Haiyan Yang
Shangping Xu
Derek E. Chitwood
Yin Wang
POU technologies Water
Water productionc) Costd) Ease to usee) Overall score Description
Chlorination 1 3 2 5 11 Hypochlorite liquid or tablets are used to inactivate pathogens in source water.
2 2 1 2 7 Dry coagulant-flocculant and chlorine as tablets or sachets are added to source water to inactive and settle down pathogens.
Solar disinfection 3 1 5 1 10 Source water is filled in polyethylene terephthalate (PET) or glass under sunlight, allowing UV and heat to inactivate pathogens.
Ceramic water filter 5 2 4 4 15 Porous ceramic media (e.g., pot, disk, candle) with silver coating is used to filter pathogens from source water.
Biosand filter 4 3 3 3 13 Biosand filter is adapted from slow sand filter cover with biofilm, removing pathogens using biological and physical processes.
Tab.1  Comparison of POU treatment technologies used in developing countriesa)
Fig.1  Schematic of different forms of ceramic water filters: (a) ceramic disk filter, (b) ceramic candle filter, (c) ceramic pot filter, (d) tubular ceramic filter.
Fig.2  Ceramic water filter production flow chart. It was re-drawn based on the Ceramics Manufacturing Working Group (2011).
Reference/ source Laboratory/Field work Flow ratea)
Microbial removal (LRVb)) Porosity Average pore size (mm)c)
Yang et al. (2020) Laboratory 5.1–6.4 4.5 0.22 1.22
12.5–15.4 2.1 0.24 1.24
Oyanedel-Craver and Smith (2008) Laboratory ~2.6 3.0 (w/o Ag coating)
4.0 (w/o Ag coating)
0.37 14.3
~1.7 2.9 (w/o Ag coating)
3.2 (w/o Ag coating)
0.42 2.0
~0.61 3.4 (w/o Ag coating)
3.8 (w/o Ag coating)
0.39 8.2
Bielefeldt et al. (2009) Laboratory/Field 0.8–1.9 2.2–3.8 (w/o Ag coating)
3.2–4.2 (w/o Ag coating)
Not reported
van der Laan et al. (2014) Field 5.5–21.0 ~1 (w/o Ag coating) Not reported
2.55 2.5 (w/o Ag coating)
Van Halem et al. (2017) Field 5–20 ~1.0 (w/o Ag coating) Not reported
Soppe et al. (2015) Laboratory/Filed 7–23 2.1–2.9 (w/o Ag coating) Not reported
PFPd) Field 1–3 ~2 (w/o Ag coating) Various from factory to factory
Various from factory to factory
RDICe) Field 1.8–2.5 ~2 (w/o Ag coating)
Tab.2  Flow rate and bacterial removal efficiency of reported CWFs
Modification component Modification method Target contaminants Removal efficacy/capacitya) References
Nano TiO2 Painted-onb) Escherichia coli >90% He et al. (2018)
ZnO Painted-on Escherichia coli 2.19–2.97 LRV Huang et al. (2018)
TPAc) Painted-on Escherichia coli 6.24 LRV
(raw filter 4.34 LRV)
Zhang and Oyanedel-Craver (2013)
Iron oxide Submersed in Fe3+ solution→baked at 110°C (4h)→550°C (3h) Arsenite/
Treating 49–1619 bed volumes of arsenic-contaminated solution under 10 mg/L Robbins et al. (2014)
Lanthanum components Submersed in La3+ solutio→thermally treated for 3h Arsenite/
Treating ~3200 pore volumes of As(III)-contaminated solution under 10 mg/L Yang et al. (2019a,b)
Treating ~14500 pore volumes of As(V)-contaminated solution under 10 mg/L
13 mg/g
Virus (MS2) >5 LRV
Y2O3 Submersed in Y2O3 colloids→dried at 80°C (12h)→calcined at 500°C–1040°C (1h) virus (MS2) Up to 6.5 LRV Wegmann et al. (2008a)
Zr(OH)x Submersed in Zr(OH)x colloids→dried at 150°C (12h)→calcined at 250/300/400°C (1h) virus (MS2) 6.2–6.6 LRV (pH5)
4.0–6.9 LRV (pH7)
3.7–7.4 LRV (pH9)
Wegmann et al. (2008b)
MgO Fired-ind) virus (MS2, PhiX174) 0.3–4.7 LRV (MS2)
0–4 LRV (PhiX174)
Michen et al. (2013)
Tab.3  Studies exploring CWFs surface modification besides silver impregnation
1 L S Abebe, X Chen, M D Sobsey (2016). Chitosan coagulation to improve microbial and turbidity removal by ceramic water filtration for household drinking water treatment. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 13(3): 269–279
2 L S Abebe, Y H Su, R L Guerrant, N S Swami, J A Smith (2015). Point-of-use removal of Cryptosporidium Parvum from water: Independent effects of disinfection by silver nanoparticles and silver ions and by physical filtration in ceramic porous media. Environmental Science & Technology, 49(21): 12958–12967
3 A R Bielefeldt, K Kowalski, R S Summers (2009). Bacterial treatment effectiveness of point-of-use ceramic water filters. Water Research, 43(14): 3559–3565
4 J Brown, M D Sobsey (2010). Microbiological effectiveness of locally produced ceramic filters for drinking water treatment in Cambodia. Journal of Water and Health, 8(1): 1–10
5 T F Clasen, K T Alexander, D Sinclair, S Boisson, R Peletz, H H Chang, F Majorin, S Cairncross (2015). Interventions to improve water quality for preventing diarrhoea. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews,
6 T F Clasen, J Brown, S Collin, O Suntura, S Cairncross (2004). Reducing diarrhea through the use of household-based ceramic water filters: A randomized, controlled trial in rural Bolivia. American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 70(6): 651–657
7 A Geremew, B Mengistie, E Alemayehu, D S Lantagne, J Mellor, G Sahilu (2018). Point-of-use water chlorination among urban and rural households with under-five-year children: A comparative study in Kersa Health and Demographic Surveillance Site, Eastern Ethiopia. Journal of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene for Development, 8(3): 468–480
8 J Y Goodwin, A C Elmore, C Salvinelli, M R Reidmeyer (2017). An optical method for characterizing carbon content in ceramic pot filters. Journal of Water and Health, 15(4): 536–544
9 L Guerrero-Latorre, P Balseca-Enriquez, C Moyota-Tello, R Bravo-Camino, S Davila-Chavez, E Bonifaz-Arcos, B Romero-Carpio, M Chico-Teran (2019). Performance of black ceramic water filters and their implementation in rural Ecuador. Journal of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene for Development, 9(4): 694–702
10 J, Hagan N Harley, R Hughes, A Chouhan, D Pointing, M Sampson, V Saom, K Smith (2009). Resource Developing International—Cambodia ceramic water filter handbook. Phnom Penh, Cambodia: Engnieers Without Borders Australia
11 Y He, G Huang, C An, J Huang, P Zhang, X Chen, X Xin (2018). Reduction of Escherichia coli using ceramic disk filter decorated by nano-TiO2: A low-cost solution for household water purification. Science of the Total Environment, 616-617: 1628–1637
12 J Huang, G H Huang, C J An, Y He, Y Yao, P Zhang, J Shen (2018). Performance of ceramic disk filter coated with nano ZnO for removing Escherichia coli from water in small rural and remote communities of developing regions. Environmental Pollution, 238: 52–62
13 E N Kallman, V A Oyanedel-Craver, J A Smith (2011). Ceramic filters impregnated with silver nanoparticles for point-of-use water treatment in rural Guatemala. Journal of Environmental Engineering, 137(6): 407–415
14 D S Lantagne (2001). Investigation of the potters for peace colloidal silver impregnated ceramic filter Report 2: Field Investigations
15 K J Lucier, S E Dickson-Anderson, C J Schuster-Wallace (2017). Effectiveness of silver and copper infused ceramic drinking water filters in reducing microbiological contaminants. Journal of Water Supply: Research & Technology- Aqua, 66(7): 528–536
16 B A Lyon-Marion, A M Mittelman, J Rayner, D S Lantagne, K D Pennell (2018). Impact of chlorination on silver elution from ceramic water filters. Water Research, 142: 471–479
17 B Michen, J Fritsch, C Aneziris, T Graule (2013). Improved virus removal in ceramic depth filters modified with MgO. Environmental Science & Technology, 47(3): 1526–1533
18 B Michen, F Meder, A Rust, J Fritsch, C Aneziris, T Graule (2012). Virus removal in ceramic depth filters based on diatomaceous earth. Environmental Science & Technology, 46(2): 1170–1177
19 A M Mittelman, D S Lantagne, J Rayner, K D Pennell (2015). Silver dissolution and release from ceramic water filters. Environmental Science & Technology, 49(14): 8515–8522
20 J F Morris, J Murphy, K Fagerli, C Schneeberger, P Jaron, F Moke, J Juma, J B Ochieng, R Omore, D Roellig, L Xiao, J W Priest, J Narayanan, J M Montgomery, V Hill, E Mintz, T L Ayers, C E O’reilly (2018). A randomized controlled trial to assess the impact of ceramic water filters on prevention of diarrhea and cryptosporidiosis in infants and young children-western Kenya, 2013. American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 98(5): 1260–1268
21 H M Murphy, E A Mcbean, K Farahbakhsh (2010). Nitrification, denitrification and ammonification in point-of-use biosand filters in rural Cambodia. Journal of Water and Health, 8(4): 803–817
22 V A Oyanedel-Craver, J A Smith (2008). Sustainable colloidal-silver-impregnated ceramic filter for point-of-use water treatment. Environmental Science & Technology, 42(3): 927–933
23 M Peter-Varbanets, C Zurbrugg, C Swartz, W Pronk (2009). Decentralized systems for potable water and the potential of membrane technology. Water Research, 43(2): 245–265
24 J Rayner, X Luo, J Schubert, P Lennon, K Jellison, D Lantagne (2017). The effects of input materials on ceramic water filter efficacy for household drinking water treatment. Water Science and Technology: Water Supply, 17(3): 859–869
25 J Rayner, B Skinner, D Lantagne (2013a). Current practices in manufacturing locally-made ceramic pot filters for water treatment in developing countries. Journal of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene for Development, 3(2): 252–261
26 J Rayner, H Zhang, J Schubert, P Lennon, D Lantagne, V Oyanedel-Craver (2013b). Laboratory investigation into the effect of silver application on the bacterial removal efficacy of filter material for use on locally produced ceramic water filters for household drinking water treatment. ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, 1(7): 737–745
27 D Ren, L M Colosi, J A Smith (2013). Evaluating the sustainability of ceramic filters for point-of-use drinking water treatment. Environmental Science & Technology, 47(19): 11206–11213
28 D J Ren, J A Smith (2013). Retention and transport of silver nanoparticles in a ceramic porous medium used for point-of-use water treatment. Environmental Science & Technology, 47(8): 3825–3832
29 E C Robbins, J Guo, C D Adams (2014). Removal of As(III) and As(V) in surface modified ceramic filters. Journal of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene for Development, 4(2): 214–222
30 H Salsali, E Mcbean, J Brunsting (2011). Virus removal efficiency of Cambodian ceramic pot water purifiers. Journal of Water and Health, 9(2): 306–311
31 C Salvinelli, A C Elmore (2015). Assessment of the impact of water parameters on the flow rate of ceramic pot filters in a long-term experiment. Water Science and Technology: Water Supply, 15(6): 1425–1432
32 C Salvinelli, A C Elmore, M R Reidmeyer, K D Drake, K I Ahmad (2016). Characterization of the relationship between ceramic pot filter water production and turbidity in source water. Water Research, 104: 28–33
33 M D Sobsey, C E Stauber, L M Casanova, J M Brown, M A Elliott (2008). Point of use household drinking water filtration: A practical, effective solution for providing sustained access to safe drinking water in the developing world. Environmental Science & Technology, 42(12): 4261–4267
34 A I A Soppe, S G J Heijman, I Gensburger, A Shantz, D Van Halem, J Kroesbergen, G H Wubbels, P Smeets (2015). Critical parameters in the production of ceramic pot filters for household water treatment in developing countries. Journal of Water and Health, 13(2): 587–599
35 R K Sullivan, M Erickson, V A Oyanedel-Craver (2017). Understanding the microbiological, organic and inorganic contaminant removal capacity of ceramic water filters doped with different silver nanoparticles. Environmental Science. Nano, 4(12): 2348–2355
36 The Ceramics Manufacturing Working Group (2011). Best practice recommendations for local manufacturing of ceramic pot filters for household water treatment. Atlant, GA, USA: Ceramics Manufacturing Working Group
37 H van der Laan, D Van Halem, P Smeets, A Soppe, J Kroesbergen, G Wubbels, J Nederstigt, I Gensburger, S Heijman (2014). Bacteria and virus removal effectiveness of ceramic pot filters with different silver applications in a long term experiment. Water Research, 51: 47–54
38 D Van Halem (2006). Ceramic silver impregnated pot filters for household drinking water treatment in developing countries. Delft, Netherlands: Delft University of Technology
39 D Van Halem, H Van Der Laan, A Soppe, S Heijman (2017). High flow ceramic pot filters. Water Research, 124: 398–406
40 M Wegmann, B Michen, T Graule (2008a). Nanostructured surface modification of microporous ceramics for efficient virus filtration. Journal of the European Ceramic Society, 28(8): 1603–1612
41 M Wegmann, B Michen, T Luxbacher, J Fritsch, T Graule (2008b). Modification of ceramic microfilters with colloidal zirconia to promote the adsorption of viruses from water. Water Research, 42(6–7): 1726–1734
42 World Health Organization (2017). Progress on drinking water sanitation and hygiene: 2017 update and SDG baselines. Geneva: World Health Organization
43 World Health Organization (2019a). Progress on household drinking water, sanitation and hygiene 2000–2017: Special focus on inequalities. Geneva: World Health Organization
44 World Health Organization (2019b). Drinking-water Fact sheet. New York: World Health Organization
45 H Yang, X Min, S Xu, J Bender, Y Wang (2020). Development of effective and fast-flow ceramic porous media for point-of-use water treatment: Effect of pore size distribution. ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, 8(6): 2531–2539
46 H Yang, X Min, S Xu, Y Wang (2019a). Lanthanum(III)-coated ceramics as a promising material in point-of-use water treatment for arsenite and arsenate removal. ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, 7(10): 9220–9227
47 H Yang, Y Wang, J Bender, S Xu (2019b). Removal of arsenate and chromate by lanthanum-modified granular ceramic material: The critical role of coating temperature. Scientific Reports, 9(1): 7690
48 M Youmoue, R T T Fongang, J C Sofack, E Kamseu, U C Melo, I K Tonle, C Leonelli, S Rossignol (2017). Design of ceramic filters using clay/sawdust composites: Effect of pore network on the hydraulic permeability. Ceramics International, 43(5): 4496–4507
49 H Y Zhang, V Oyanedel-Craver (2013). Comparison of the bacterial removal performance of silver nanoparticles and a polymer based quaternary amine functiaonalized silsesquioxane coated point-of-use ceramic water filters. Journal of Hazardous Materials, 260: 272–277
Related articles from Frontiers Journals
[1] Jiaxue Yu, Junqing Xu, Zhenchen Li, Wenzhi He, Juwen Huang, Junshi Xu, Guangming Li. Upgrading pyrolytic carbon-blacks (CBp) from end-of-life tires: Characteristics and modification methodologies[J]. Front. Environ. Sci. Eng., 2020, 14(2): 19-.
[2] Yulong Shi, Jiaxuan Yang, Jun Ma, Congwei Luo. Feasibility of bubble surface modification for natural organic matter removal from river water using dissolved air flotation[J]. Front. Environ. Sci. Eng., 2017, 11(6): 10-.
[3] Isam Alyaseri, Jianpeng Zhou, Susan M. Morgan, Andrew Bartlett. Initial impacts of rain gardens’ application on water quality and quantity in combined sewer: field-scale experiment[J]. Front. Environ. Sci. Eng., 2017, 11(4): 19-.
[4] Yuan XU,Ruqin XIE,Yuqiu WANG,Jian SHA. Spatio-temporal variations of water quality in Yuqiao Reservoir Basin, North China[J]. Front. Environ. Sci. Eng., 2015, 9(4): 649-664.
[5] Wendong WANG,Qinghai FAN,Zixia QIAO,Qin YANG,Yabo WANG,Xiaochang WANG. Effects of water quality on the coagulation performances of humic acids irradiated with UV light[J]. Front. Environ. Sci. Eng., 2015, 9(1): 147-154.
[6] Xiaomao WANG,Hongwei YANG,Zhenyu LI,Shaoxia YANG,Yuefeng XIE. Pilot study for the treatment of sodium and fluoride-contaminated groundwater by using high-pressure membrane systems[J]. Front. Environ. Sci. Eng., 2015, 9(1): 155-163.
[7] Hong CHEN,Feng XIAO,Zhe BI,Ping XIAO,Dongsheng WANG,Ming YANG. Practical evaluation for water utilities in China by using analytic hierarchy process[J]. Front. Environ. Sci. Eng., 2015, 9(1): 131-137.
[8] Xue LI,Pengjing LI,Dong WANG,Yuqiu WANG. Assessment of temporal and spatial variations in water quality using multivariate statistical methods: a case study of the Xin'anjiang River, China[J]. Front. Environ. Sci. Eng., 2014, 8(6): 895-904.
[9] ZHANG Xiaojian,MI Zilong,WANG Yang,LIU Shuming,NIU Zhangbin,LU Pinpin,WANG Jun,GU Junnong,CHEN Chao. A red water occurrence in drinking water distribution systems caused by changes in water source in Beijing, China: mechanism analysis and control measures[J]. Front.Environ.Sci.Eng., 2014, 8(3): 417-426.
[10] SUN Daolin,YU Jianwei,YANG Min,AN Wei,ZHAO Yunyun,LU Ning,YUAN Shengguang,ZHANG Dongqing. Occurrence of odor problems in drinking water of major cities across China[J]. Front.Environ.Sci.Eng., 2014, 8(3): 411-416.
[11] Xiaoliu YANG, Jian XU, Jean-Fran?ois DONZIER, Coralie NOEL. A comparison of the water management systems in France and China[J]. Front Envir Sci Eng, 2013, 7(5): 721-734.
[12] Sen DING, Yuan ZHANG, Bin LIU, Weijing KONG, Wei MENG. Effects of riparian land use on water quality and fish communities in the headwater stream of the Taizi River in China[J]. Front Envir Sci Eng, 2013, 7(5): 699-708.
[13] Zhuo CHEN, Huu Hao NGO, Wenshan GUO, Xiaochang WANG. Analysis of Sydney’s recycled water schemes[J]. Front Envir Sci Eng, 2013, 7(4): 608-615.
[14] Guanghai GAO, Roger A. FALCONER, Binliang LIN. Modeling effects of a tidal barrage on water quality indicator distribution in the Severn Estuary[J]. Front Envir Sci Eng, 2013, 7(2): 211-218.
[15] Xudong WANG, Shushen ZHANG, Suling LIU, Jingwen CHEN. A two-dimensional numerical model for eutrophication in Baiyangdian Lake[J]. Front Envir Sci Eng, 2012, 6(6): 815-824.
Full text