Ernie's Filters

Rotary District Governor Adopts SAPWII Water Project


Ernestine ("Ernie") Luise, 2007-2008 Governor of Rotary District 7980 in Southern Connecticut, has adopted the SAPWII water project in India as one of her principle service goals for the year. Dubbed "Clean Water For Kids," Luise’s challenge is to raise funds by the end of her year to provide drinking water filters for all 411 schools in Kolar district, Karnataka, South India, about 60 miles east of Bangalore.

"Once all schools get Bio-Sand Filters," Luise said, "120,000 children will benefit from this project. Some large schools need two or three filters, so we may need 1,000 filters or more. But I’m confident we can do it."

Ernie’s Filters

To insure success, the Rotary District Governor has developed a novel fundraising technique: "Ernie’s Filters." Ernie’s Filters are a reduced-size wooden replica of the actual Bio-Sand Filters. Replica filters have been made for each of the 62 Rotary Clubs in Luise’s Rotary District 7980. At weekly Rotary meetings club members put donations in their wooden water filter in support of the water project.

For each $100 collected and remitted the Rotary Club receives a "water drop" sticker to decorate their wooden water filter. Every droplet indicates the club’s progress. For each $100 collected four Bio-Sand Water Filters will be placed in schools in Kolar district.

Clean Water For Kids

The real Bio-Sand Filters are manufactured in India at a factory established by the South Asia Pure Water Initiative, Inc. (SAPWII). Launched in 2005, SAPWII is the non-profit brainchild of a Connecticut couple with Rotary and Peace Corps backgrounds. Co-founders Mike Lipman and Cathy Forsberg are certified public accountants based in Hamden. Lipman was a Peace Corps volunteer in Kolar, India, in 1969-1971, and worked with a water-well blasting project. Cathy Forsberg, Lipman’s wife and business partner, is past president of the Hamden Rotary Club. The SAPWII workshop in South India is managed by T.S. Rama Chandra Gowda, a mechanical engineer and prominent Rotarian in Kolar District 3190. Several Rotary Clubs in Luise’s District have already "adopted" villages in India to provide water filters for poor households.

The South Asia Pure Water Initiative produces low cost Bio-Sand Filters from readily available local materials in Kolar, India. Each filter can produce enough clean drinking, cooking and bathing water for 15 people per day. There are no on-going costs, very little on-going maintenance, and the filters are expected to last 25-30 years. The workshop now employs approximately 20 workers and contractors and has a production capacity of 50 or more Bio-Sand Filters a week.

"The Kolar water project and ‘Ernie’s Filters’ are a perfect fit for our District," says Governor Luise. "Delivering clean water to school children, coupled with sanitation and hygiene education will truly make a difference in the lives of thousands of poor rural people in India. It’s a win-win for the kids and for our Rotary District."