Clean Water for Fishing Villages along the Red River

By: UNIID SEA - 2014-06-26

Project Brief 

The fishing and floating communities along the Red River in Vietnam are dependent on the river and the water it provides not only for income from fishing but also for bathing, household cleaning, cooking and dwelling. Access to clean water, however, is one of the many challenges these communities face. Sewage from on-land households, and chemicals and pesticides from intensive production activities pollute the river, thereby adversely affecting their everyday lives. Water-sharing—the taking water out of wells belonging to on-land households--has somehow addressed the problem but because of the long distance that one needs to travel to get to the water source and back, people from the communities opt to use the water from the river, though unclean. Filtration systems and facilities are too expensive for them to acquire as these are normally powered by electricity, which is not available in the area. 

This challenge motivated a Vietnamese non-profit organization, the Center for Water Resources Conservation and Development (WARECOD), to develop a suitable stand-alone water purifying system for these floating communities. 

The Process 

After seeking permission and support from local authorities, a research team led by WARECOD conducted field investigations that allowed them to have a deeper understanding of the living conditions, activities, water demand and difficulties encountered in accessing clean water by fishing communities in Thuy An village. 

This system, which can be fitted onto a typical boat-house, can filter 300 liters of water per hour. The filtration system is composed of quartz-sand composite, an activated charcoal composite, a 0.5 micrometer (μm) filter, a 0.2 μm filter and a UF filter, all attached to a solid steel frame that is mounted on a bicycle. The bicycle also serves as the transmission system together with a water pump and a portable linkage, all easy to assemble. A valve system was also connected to a pipe that enables the operation line to take water from the river that will go through a treatment system. 

A fishing household in Thuy An village was selected for the project’s pilot testing of the prototype. After discussions with household members as well as observations made by the team, the system was redesigned to achieve boat balance and stability when used. The two separate composite cylinders were placed on either side of the boat, while the filtration system was placed on the boat’s tail and the container was placed on the opposite side, eventually achieving impressive boat balance and stability. Families were oriented on how to operate and maintain the facility, and monitoring was conducted by the team every ten days. The model was continuously modified after several observations and two more units of the adjusted model were installed in the community. 

This prototype of the water filtration system has been tested in boats located in varying areas – in static water, in low-lying land, in open river and in a tributary where the water has a high contamination level due to industry and agricultural activities. 

Training activities were conducted further to raise awareness among community members on the use and maintenance of the system, and the importance of good water and sanitation practice. 

Risks, Problems, and Barriers 

This innovation proved to be a success but a dissemination plan and a business model for future production and sale have yet to be developed by WARECOD. Project partners at this stage focused only on the technical development of the system. 

Benefits, Outcomes and Reach 

WARECOD in partnership with Vietnam National University and the Thuy An village community, succeeded in establishing a water treatment system model that is suitable for a floating community. Filter systems that were available in the market were used and entire model was built with a size and weight that was appropriate for moving boats. Its impact on the balance and movement of the boat was also considered as well as ease of use. 

Its water purifying capacity varies from 80 to 120 liters of water per hour, which is enough to meet the daily activities of a family of 5-7 members. The water produced by the system was tested and tests revealed that the quality of the water met the national standards for drinking and cooking water, except for the micro-organism parameter--which registered at 2 MPN/100ml (higher than the Vietnamese standard of 0 MPN/100ml). The project team, therefore, advised the families to still boil the purified water for drinking. 

The community, in the process, gained more knowledge on the importance of having clean water and the use of water purifying facilities. This will enable them to engage more actively in future campaigns, and in other projects related to water resource management. 

Lessons Learned

WARECOD’s project proved that given the venue for continuing dialogue and the necessary technical and financial assistance at the onset, poor people living in floating communities are willing to try out technologies that can help them have clean water for drinking and household use. The active participation of community members in the project was a crucial element in the development, installation, implementation and modification of the water filtration system prototype. Through training and information dissemination, the local villagers of Thuy An understood and appreciated better the importance of clean water, water cleaning facilities, sanitation and the health impacts of using unclean water. 

The participatory approach used by WARECOD contributed much to the project’s success. The project enabled the development of a system that is appropriate for boat-houses in floating communities. Moreover, the project was able to call the attention of local authorities on the water and sanitation needs of these types of communities, which will hopefully create more opportunities for the participation of the poor in similar activities. WARECOD also noted that the project also set a good example for other agencies and for local officials in Vietnam to take greater interest in doing research on technologies for vulnerable and marginalized social groups. With this project’s success, WARECOD hopes that local government authorities and other organizations, even private groups, can learn from their experience and start development projects geared towards helping other poor communities. 

The Future

The project team hopes to further develop the prototype of this water filtration system and eventually provide a sustainable water supply model for floating communities. It is expected that the system will be replicated and used by other floating communities along the Red River and in other river systems with similar water characteristics. In the long run, this effort aims to contribute towards building the capacity of floating communities to conserve and manage the use of natural resources, leading to improved health and living conditions

About the Author

UNIID-SEA works with universities and research councils in Southeast Asia to promote action research and facilitate the development of programs that support innovation for inclusive development (IID). Contact Info: Ateneo School of Government Pacifico Ortiz Hall, Fr. Arrupe Road, Social Development Complex, Ateneo De Manila University, Loyola Heights, Quezon City, Philippines 1108 Tel: +63 2 426 6001 locals 4646, 4639 Telefax: +63 2 929 7035 Email: Website:


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