Mothers’ Impact on Water Filter Use


A research study conducted in collaboration with Wuqu’ Kawoq (WK) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (the School of Social Work and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering) recently  highlighted the importance of family dynamics and gender roles in the use of bio-sand water filters in Guatemala.

Clean water has become a priority in the realm of global development, with the emergence of many initiatives in research, development, and technology. In particular, point-of-use bio-sand water filter technology has become an attractive and viable option, considering the ease of use and cost-effectiveness of the system. It provides a consistent flow of clean water for many schools and houses that could greatly benefit. In the past four years, water filters have been installed into 400 households across various Maya communities in Guatemala through an interdisciplinary partnership between WK and UIUC.

However, the implementation of water filters is only one aspect of the solution. There are other factors that influence the success of development projects as well. As such, this research study examined the role of family dynamics to better understand the influence on use and non-use of water filters.

While the results indicate that most families use the bio-sand water filters on a regular basis, those who express low engagement with the technology cite a lack of clear knowledge of how to properly use it, disinterest, and distrust in the product. These areas of concern may stem from difficulties with prior development programs and/or missteps with the current one. This demonstrates the underlying need for sustainable relationships based upon trust and understanding between providers (development program teams) and recipients (communities).

Furthermore, family dynamics within a household is a contributing factor to the continuous use of bio-sand water filter technology. Mothers are the “gatekeepers” of the technology. In other words, they are the ones who closely monitor the daily consumption of clean water, given their traditional status as caregiver within the household. Their motivation to use the technology is driven by their desire to care for their children’s well-being, as well as their trust in the development team, pointing to the idea that mothers can be powerful agents of change within their communities.

Water Filter Use in Guatemala

The poster of the research project can be viewed and downloaded in its entirety here.