Cocopeat Effluent Water Filtration Systems in the Philippines: A Comparative Evaluation of Alternative Implementation Models

Thumbnail Image




Parsons, Seth


Fernholz, Fernando R

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Repository Usage Stats



Context & Problem Overview - There is a great necessity for improved sanitation practices in the developing world. Forty percent of the world’s population practice open defecation or lack adequate sanitation facilities. In urban areas throughout the developing world, where household and community toilets are available, 2.1 billion people use toilets connected to septic tanks that are not safely emptied or use other systems that discharge raw sewage into open drains or surface waters resulting in a greater incidence of waterborne diseases, poor drinking water quality, and contaminated water sources. In the Philippines, poor sanitation infrastructure and disease costs the economy $1.94 billion a year. Improved sanitation practices and infrastructure are difficult to implement and sustain. Public services, treatment systems, and sanitation practices in the developing world often require sufficient land, capital, and energy resources that are often scarce. Low cost, sustainable improvements and innovations, as well as local acceptance and ownership, are necessary to develop and implement alternative technologies that can help reuse waste, improve water treatment and improve overall quality of sanitation services.
Researchers at Research Triangle Institute (RTI) International have developed and tested a secondary waste water treatment filter that can be appended to existing decentralized waste water treatment systems (DEWATS) and collection facilities. Using a cocopeat filter, the discarded dust and coir generated from coconut processing plants, an effective bio-filter unit can be constructed. This simple device can easily be connected to existing septic tanks or other primary treatment components to filter effluent waste water and meet national discharge standards. This filtration technology has the potential to improve health and positively impact sanitation services for urban poor communities. Although successful pilot programs have been launched through grant funding and self-financing, RTI would like to explore alternative implementation models to deliver this technology to a larger audience in the Philippines.

Policy Question - What implementation models could RTI International consider for scaling up cocopeat bio-filtration systems to improve access to safe water and sanitation in urban poor areas of the Philippines?

Data and Methodology - To assess and recommend potential implementation model options the following data and methodology was used: 1) Sanitation Sector Landscape Analysis – I conducted a literature review of the Philippines sanitation sector to assess the most significant institutional factors related to implementing DEWATS projects. 2) Case Study Analysis – I collected and reviewed relevant case studies related to DEWATS projects implemented in urban Philippines locations to determine key lessons learned, potential implementation models, and project financing structures. 3) Integrated Financial and Economic Analysis – From the financial and economic data collected in the case studies, I analyzed cocopeat filter technology system costs with comparable secondary treatment systems. Additionally, I analyzed potential cost distributions of a cocopeat filter system using four different implementation models.

Findings - 1) Cocopeat filter technology is a proven low cost, sustainable, and effective alternative to other secondary waste water treatment technology options with comparable efficiency. 2) The Community Participation model shows the most potential for mitigating institutional risks and constraints within the sanitation sector. 3) Efficient DEWATS implementation using a cocopeat filter has the potential to improve benefit to cost ratios (BCRs), reduce cost burdens on direct users, and introduce sanitation treatment systems to urban areas where space constraints are a key limiting factor.

Recommendations - RTI could pursue Community Participation models for implementing cocopeat filter DEWATS projects with support from local government units (LGUs) and NGOs. This model shows the most promise for mitigating institutional risks, promoting awareness of sanitation benefits, driving ownership by end users, and enabling technology adoption. Given that technical implementation, social marketing, and sanitation training expertise resides predominantly with NGOs, RTI should also continue to promote the benefits of cocopeat filter technology through these subject matter experts.





Parsons, Seth (2014). Cocopeat Effluent Water Filtration Systems in the Philippines: A Comparative Evaluation of Alternative Implementation Models. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.