From Waste To Water

From top the source water, next the holes in the three gallon bucket, the filter media after filtration, the water after filtration.

This is how we purify from waste to water on an urban farm. I tried this at Mezzacello during my Renewables camp, and it worked beautifully. It was a delight for the kids, and a surprise and inspiration for me!

A Note On Water

One does need to have a good sense of applied STEM and the chemistry of water. Water is magnetic so you must understand the materials you are using should not carry a static charge. Do not use plastic anywhere in this project, other than in the buckets – and you’ll need a lid!


  1. Five Gallon Bucket
  2. Three Gallon Bucket
  3. Five Gallon Lid
  4. 2 liters of clean play sand
  5. 1 liter of rinsed pea gravel
  6. 2 liters washed river stone
  7. 10 charcoal briquettes
  8. 4 coffee filters
  9. 1 round cut out of screen the size of the bucket
  10. A drill
  11. a 3/32” drill bit
  12. Dirty water
  13. Bromine tablets


  • Use the drill to put 30 holes randomly but evenly distributed into the smaller three gallon bucket.
  • Into the interior bottom of the three gallon bucket, place the flattened coffee filters above the holes they should overlap.
  • Break the briquettes roughly and place above the filters.
  • Layer first the river rock, then the pea gravel, and lastly the play sand.
  • Find a source of water that is dirty and pour it into the three gallon bucket to full.
  • Cover it and wait 20 minutes.
  • Check the water! it should be clean.
  • If the water is optically clear you can use it as grey water.
  • if you want to drink it, add a bromine tablet or use a Brita filter to purify if to potable status.

This system is reusable!

Just rinse off all of the stone. Then place the gravel and sand materials into a colander with holes big enough for the sand to fall through. Sift the sand free from the gravel.

Store sand, gravel and stone back in the three gallon bucket and cover until you need it again! If your water is algae water like this was, save that algae!

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