How does the Effectiveness of Water Filters in Malawi Affect User Compliance?

Emory University
Atlanta, Georgia
Data Science
DOI: 10.18258/4998
Raised of $3,500 Goal
Funded on 5/20/15
Successfully Funded
  • $3,500
  • 100%
  • Funded
    on 5/20/15

About This Project

We will be investigating why people who own a certain type of water filter (the Tulip Filter) choose not to use it, and if there is a relationship between how effective it is and their use. The ultimate goal of this project is to improve the rates of compliance with water filtration among households, and ultimately decrease the risk of waterborne disease in the Malawi.

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What is the context of this research?

With only 81.6% of Mzuzu, Malawi's population having access to improved water, many people resort to drinking water from contaminated sources such as streams, boreholes, or unprotected wells. One study by Msilimba & Wanda (2013) found fecal coliform present in 96.3% of sampled well sites in Mzuzu. As a result, there is a substantial need for affordable and effective household point-of-use (POU) treatments in the region.

The Tulip Water Filter is one POU treatment option available to homes in Mzuzu, and is capable of removing over 99% of bacteria, turbidity, and protozoa in water. This technology uses a ceramic filter to clean the water and is ideal for homes in low-income settings. Though proven effective in lab settings, research is still needed on its effectiveness in the field.

What is the significance of this project?

Approximately 80% of respondents living in Mzuzu prefer drinking untreated water that was traditionally considered safe, over treated water. Limited data is available explaining why certain users fail to comply, and how it impacts treatment effectiveness. A similar study, conducted by Levy et al. (2014), measured chlorine effectiveness in the field, and found that efficacy of POU treatments in controlled settings was significantly better than chlorine effectiveness within the community. Consequently, this study will examine the relationship between user compliance and the effectiveness of the Tulip Water Filter in household settings. These findings will then be used to implement new strategies to improve rates of filter use, thus ultimately reducing the incidence of diarrheal disease.

What are the goals of the project?

In order to increase the effectiveness of Tulip Water Filters and decrease the risk of waterborne disease, the primary objective of this proposed study will be to assess the relationship between compliance and filter effectiveness among households in Mzuzu, Malawi. The study will accomplish this objective by focusing on two specific aims. First, I will measure the overall self-reported rate of compliance by distributing surveys to households that own Tulip Filter in Mzuzu, Malawi. These surveys will assist me in measuring levels of compliance and better understanding the attitudes that communities have about the intervention. I will also take water samples in order to assess the effectiveness of Tulip Filters within the household versus their efficacy in the laboratory.


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Up until now, I've funded this project completely out-of-pocket. As a graduate student, the total project cost of $10919 is one that is extremely difficult to bear alone. I have been fortunate enough to have Emory University and IDEXX Laboratories donate some supplies. However, even with these generous donations, my project will still cost approximately $3500 out-of-pocket.

For those who haven't used the IDEXX method, water is poured into IDEXX trays along with Colilert, sealed and then incubated before it's read for analysis. Colilert is the indicator used determine fecal coliform and E. coli levels.

While English is prominent in Malawi, many locals speak languages other than English. Therefore, I will hire a Mzuzu undergrad student to assist with translating and collecting data.

Meet the Team

Kirsten Fagerli
Kirsten Fagerli

Team Bio

I am very excited to be heading up this project with the support of Emory University and Mzuzu University Centre for Excellence in Water and Sanitation. I am currently a MPH Candidate in Global Environmental Health at Emory University, and am expecting to graduate in 2016. I graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in Environmental Science and Psychology in 2013. While I have acted as a research assistant on a few projects in the past, this will be my first project as the lead researcher.

My passion for Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) studies began while taking a water sustainability class at UF. Since that time, I have continued to expand my knowledge in the WASH field. This past year, I traveled to Jaipur, India, where I worked with children living in the slums, teaching English, math, and hygiene related topics. Witnessing these children drink this brownish red water daily was a very eye opening experience. This experience is what inspired me to pursue a career that will increase affordable access to sources of clean drinking water in low-income settings.

I hope to be able to use this project as my thesis and publish my results after completing my project.

Additional Information

Cover photograph retreived from:

Link to Msilimba & Wanda (2013) paper:

Link to Levy et al. (2014) paper:

Project Backers

  • 18Backers
  • 100%Funded
  • $3,500Total Donations
  • $111.11Average Donation
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