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BYU students create new water filtration device for Pakistan

15 water treatment devices created by BYU students are now being implemented in communities in Pakistan, in coordination with leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints


Working in Provo, Utah, a group of BYU engineering students created a new filtration device that is helping thousands of people across the world in Pakistan have access to cleaner, safer drinking water.

Elder Peter F. Meurs, a General Authority Seventy, was the lead manager for the water filtration project as he was serving as first counselor in the Asia Area Presidency.

“In talking to government leaders about the highest humanitarian priorities, leader after leader identified clean water as a very significant priority for the country,” Elder Meurs said in a BYU News release.

About 30% of diseases in Pakistan come from contaminated water — but those diseases are preventable. 

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BYU engineering student Owen Tolley scoops a bucket of water from the campus duck pond in Provo, Utah, on Feb. 8, 2022.

Jaren Wilkey, BYU

Owen Tolley, a student on the BYU team, said they thought a lot about what they wanted to be able to fix like turbidity, coliforms including e coli, and arsenic — which is known to be found in high levels in certain regions. 

“We thought a lot about what methods would 1) be most effective at treating the water 2) be robust and simple to use and maintain 3) be economical,” Tolley wrote in an email to the Church News.

They came up with a device that takes water through both microfiltration and ultrafiltration. Team member Bethany Parkinson said they took it to the duck pond south of BYU campus.

“We set the device up at the edge of the pond, ran the tube down into the water and turned on the pump,” Parkinson said. “When water came out of the filter for the first time, we were thrilled. It was as clear as glacier water.”

No more harmful bacteria remained in the BYU Botany Pond water. Tolley said the prototype gave them an idea of what was possible, and then they connected with a Pakistani company that was able to build and maintain the systems at a reasonable cost.

Elder Meurs ordered 15 water treatment devices, which were implemented immediately in the Asian country.

“Because of the groundwork the students did, we were able to move the project forward more than a year,” Elder Meurs said. “I don’t think it would be possible to make that much progress without the help of the capstone team.”

BYU capstone project coach Corry Cloward demonstrates the water filtration system at the campus duck pond on Feb. 8, 2022, by holding a tube with clear water flowing it into a goblet.

BYU capstone project coach Corry Cloward demonstrates the water filtration system at the campus duck pond on Feb. 8, 2022.

Jaren Wilkey, BYU

Tolley said he would like to go to Pakistan someday to meet the people there and work on more water projects.

“Sometimes I feel like we didn’t really do that much, but we did do some valuable work that progressed the project and got some good things going,” he said. “I hope it’s just the start of something much bigger.”

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