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• Nicaragua

Home Biofilters - Biological filters to remove greywater nutrients

In January 2009, HABITAR began work on alternatives forms of greywater management in Nicaragua in 8 neighbourhoods with high environmental vulnerability, with the support of the Integrated Initiative for Sustainable Urban Environment 2 (ISSUE-2), funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs DGIS through the Dutch agency WASTE.

Based on the experience of the National Engineering University’s Biomass Project, which involved the assessment and monitoring of technical parameters over a five year period, biofilter technology was adapted to the environmental conditions of the country.

The implementation of biofiltration systems on a household scale made the following impacts:

Cultural. The people involved appreciated the opportunity it gave them to protect the environment in which they lived, noting the difference between good and bad use of water. This type of eco-sanitation technology is becoming more important in Latin America. Experiences in the country and other countries in the region show these technologies are accepted by people.

Institutional. The Nicaraguan Government aims to provide alternatives in accordance with the country's economic situation. Without having to wait to implement technologies from developed countries that would not be sustainable, home biofilters are an alternative form of eco-sanitation, accessible to people that have no sanitary sewer service.

Science. Nicaragua only had experience in large scale treatment plants, where wastewater is taken to a common treatment plant. The biofilter alternative means that the problem can be tackled at source, adapted to people’s needs.

Economic and financial. The reuse of water treated with biofilters produces financial savings in general and savings for the families that operate the system. Since these waters do not flow into municipal sewage systems, they can reduce the amount of effluent in those systems, which typically have high and long-term operating and maintenance costs. Home Biofilters treat greywater at the source. Unlike conventional treatment systems, they do not require a sanitary sewer to channel water, so there are no maintenance costs.

Several institutions, municipalities and private companies have shown interest in using this technology to improve household sanitation. Currently capacity building courses are being provided for technicians to enable them to design and construct home biofilters.

As regards chemical and biological parameters, home biofilters are an appropriate technology for the treatment of domestic greywater, provided that the proper design criteria are used and maintenance is guaranteed by the people concerned.