Employing CBPR to Investigate Function, Utility, and Longevity of Household Filters to Improve Potable Water Quality for Indigenous Peoples at Lake Atitlán, Guatemala: A Pilot Study With San Pedro De La Laguna

Energy Ecol Environ. 2017 Apr;2(2):95-113. doi: 10.1007/s40974-016-0045-4. Epub 2016 Nov 7.


Cyanobacterial blooms at Lake Atitlán in Guatemala threaten and compromise the livelihood and health of local residents. Indigenous Tz'utujil, Kaqchikel, and K'iche' rely directly on lake water for drinking, bathing, cleaning, cooking, and fishing. Nonpoint source runoff and untreated wastewater pumped directly into the lake contribute to high fecal pathogen loads into source waters. Concurrent nutrient loading results in cyanobacterial blooms further compromising water quality. A lakeside municipality facing high rates of childhood gastrointestinal illness volunteered to engage in community-based participatory research (CBPR) to evaluate efficacy, utility, and longevity of filters in households. The filters consistently reduced the risk of coliforms and E. coli in household water drawn from the lake based on World Health Organization guidelines. Household surveys were simultaneously administered through a student leadership group regarding water usage, water quality, and community health. Filters demonstrated ability to reduce high loads of fecal indicators from source waters and ability to remove a cyanobacterial toxin (microcystin) at 10 μg/L in deionized water. Further studies are imperative to determine longevity of use in households and CBPR provides a powerful avenue to test efficacy of a possible intervention while engaging stakeholders and empowering community members with sustainable solutions.

Keywords: CBPR; Ceramic candle; Clay vessel; Cyanobacterial blooms; Fecal indicators; Household filters.