ASFreeH2O: Applicability and social acceptance of water treatment technologies with respect to future sea-level rises


Project team: Martin Maier

Granted by:




In many areas of the world, sea-level changes have a negative impact on water quality and availability of freshwater resources. Groundwater containing arsenic and increasing amounts of salt is particularly challenging – in contrast to microbially contaminated surface water – as social aspects need to be considered as well. Treatment of visibly polluted surface water is technologically and energetically more effective than treatment of the less obviously polluted groundwater, which contains arsenic. So far, few efforts have been made to give the population an understanding of this alternative and arsenic-safe water resource. The realization of this project in Bangladesh will set an example of how to overcome the challenge of arsenic contamination by collectively gaining an understanding. This way an overall approach will be developed which might be adaptable to similar cases of groundwater pollution.


 Asfreeh2o Fig1

Figure 1: Simple household filter units are already used for iron removal in the north-west of Bangladesh.


Asfreeh2o Fig2 Asfreeh2o Fig3

Figure 2 and 3: GEOW developed the first very economical arsenic filter prototypes, which is the addition of arsenic adsorbing filter material (in the cotton bag, left picture) to a native household filter.


  • Technology: Two common technologies for arsenic removal, adsorption (Heidelberg) and membrane technology (Karlsruhe), will be evaluated with respect to their usefulness with changing water composition due to sea-level rises.
  • Social: Factors of the socio-cultural environment regarding the impact of sea-level changes on the water resources will be assessed in two different divisions of Bangladesh (Rajshahi & Sylhet) by a NGO from Heidelberg (Agape e.V.) which is already working on-site.
  • The NGO will assist to adapt an ethnological approach from Southeast Asia to the conditions of Bangladesh in order to understand and respect the local mentality and needs.
  • Technologies for water treatment and storage will be integrated into the approach by considering decision-making processes, acceptance and parameters of technology-adaptation (for example operation, energy consumption, water quality, distance).
  • The populations’ understanding of imperceptible chemical water pollutants will be investigated and communicated through comprehensible data. Investigations will be made in order to evaluate how the knowledge about those contaminants influences the use of preventive technologies.

With the start-up funding from the HeiKa-Face project, it is pursued to establish the cooperation and to collect data for at least one interdisciplinary doctoral thesis. It is planed to continue collective research in order to evaluate the applicability of the presented approach to other affected regions.


Asfreeh2o Fig4 Asfreeh2o Fig5

Figure 4 and 5: Different technologies will be evaluated for suitability and social acceptance. Large scale systems (deep wells) are retrofitted and small filter systems are used.


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Letzte Änderung: 29.04.2021
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