Implementation and Evaluation of Water Filter Distribution in Rural Uganda

Client Organization: 
SPOUTS of Water
Project Location : 
Kampala, Uganda
Secondary Client Organization: 
Sustainability without Borders (SWB)
Summary of Project Idea: 


In Uganda, lack of access to clean water is an urgent public health issue. Currently, 24 million Ugandans do not have access to clean drinking water. Diarrheal diseases cause the 2nd most deaths among children 5 years old or younger, making contaminated water deadlier than malaria and HIV. These effects are mostly felt in the rural areas of the country, where many people who lack access to clean water must boil water over traditional cooking stoves. This process requires firewood collection, a time-consuming endeavor that falls largely on women and girls. As a result, lack of clean water keeps women and girls from going to school and being otherwise economically productive, and puts significant stress on forest resources.


SPOUTS of Water is a Ugandan company that manufactures and sells ceramic filters that effectively eliminate 99.9% of water-borne bacteria. While SPOUTS’s revenue comes from sales, the company has an NGO arm that distributes filters to schools and relies upon social networks to distribute filters throughout school communities. SPOUTS targets communities for filter distribution that would be otherwise unable to afford filters. The current Sales and Marketing Director of SPOUTS, Becca Liebschutz, is an alumna of the U-M Program in the Environment. 

Sustainability Without Borders (SWB) is a student organization in U-M SEAS that partners with communities and NGOs to produce bi-directional learning experiences, and to collaboratively design sustainable solutions to expressed development needs. SWB’s model is to engage with partners for four years, during which SWB members conduct needs assessments, collect baseline data, design and implement the intervention, do capacity building, and collect follow-up data to evaluate impact. SWB projects are all student-led.


This project is intended to be the first foot forward in a four-year partnership between SWB and SPOUTS. SPOUTS is committed to its filter distribution program, but lacks the capacity to conduct impact evaluations on a wide variety of metrics. Thus, the key aim of this project will be to work with SPOUTS to decide upon key indicators, design an evaluation methodology, and deploy the methodology for baseline data collection in tandem with the start of a new filter distribution program. The project team will also work to engage other students in this project in order to form a SWB team that will carry on this work after the 16-month Master’s project and to possibly engage with the medical school program efforts in Uganda that are relevant to this project.

Specifically, over the course of the Master’s project, the students should accomplish the following objectives:

  • Begin a filter distribution program with a new school community, in conjunction with SPOUTS staff
  • Deploy training modules for community members to learn effective filter use
  • Decide upon key indicators for impact evaluation
  • Design impact evaluation methods, and collect baseline data prior to filter distribution
  • Engage other U-M students to carry on the SPOUTS-SWB partnership beyond the end of this Master’s Project, including leading a follow-up trip to introduce new students to the project and collect additional data

Currently, SPOUTS measures impact by collecting data on filter usage. However, an impact evaluation should ideally measure the downstream effects of water filters on health, ecology, and livelihoods. Thus, students will work with SPOUTS to design a survey tool to effectively measure changes in outcomes that can be traced to gaining access to clean water. Further, the students will create a modified social life-cycle assessment method to evaluate the impact throughout the total supply chain of Spouts. Possible metrics include, but are not limited to, amount of money spent on charcoal, amount of time spent collecting fuelwood and water, sexual assault and gender-based violence experienced while collecting fuelwood and water, work and school time lost to diarrheal diseases, carbon emissions reductions, rate of adoption, and overall quality of life. This project will bring together an interdisciplinary team of students with skills in areas such as community engagement, survey methodology, environmental education, and data analysis and management. The result will be a roadmap for understanding the potential for water filters to transform community livelihoods and ecosystems. In addition, this project will be an opportunity for students to design and implement a rigorous impact evaluation study, which is an increasingly important competency in the international development industry, and contribute to the advancement of the social life-cycle assessment framework.   

This project will require team members to travel to Uganda to build relationships with SPOUTS and the target community, and to deploy the survey tool. Students will travel up to 2 times, for a period of 3 weeks to 2 months each time.

SEAS Program Areas: 
Environmental Policy and Planning
Behavior, Education, and Communication
Environmental Informatics
Environmental Justice
Role for each program area: 

Environmental Policy and Planning: This project will rely on navigating social networks and institutions with the community to ensure that filter distribution is proceeding as planned. Additionally, the EPP student should be responsible for econometric survey design to best capture livelihood changes that result from filter distribution.

Behavior, Education, and Communication: This team member will take the lead on the community engagement and training that accompanies filter distribution. The success of a filter relies on proper use and maintenance. Thus, the BEC student may work with SPOUTS staff to streamline training approaches, or to train community leaders on how to lead filter trainings

Environmental Informatics: An environmental informatics student will be helpful to the project in analyzing survey and ecological data. An EI student may be interested in including spatial components in comparing households and communities, or remote sensing of community forests.

Environmental Justice: Since water access issues disproportionately affect women and the poor, this project will provide an opportunity to test whether this intervention successfully reduces health inequities between households with differing levels of wealth. An EJ perspective will be important to designing inclusive key indicators and survey components.

Professional Career Development Benefits: 

This project will provide students with cross-cultural experience working in a developing country context with a team of Ugandan SPOUTS staff. Students will gain skills in survey design and community engagement, as they work on the earlier deliverables for their project. The students will also gain experience in project management as they work with SWB leadership to engage other students to continue the partnership. Lastly, as the impact evaluation continues over the broader SWB-SPOUTS partnership, students from this Master’s project team will work with future team members to publish a case study in a peer-reviewed journal.

Funding Sources: 

Sustainability Without Borders will provide funding for the 2017-2018 academic year to support team travel expenses, and will support the team as it applies for grants to fill funding gaps from other institutions on campus (i.e. International Institute, African Studies Center, William Davidson Institute, etc.).

SPOUTS will provide the team with operational support. This includes office space and internet in Kampala, occasional use of a vehicle, assistance in translating survey materials, and facilitated introduction to the target community and local partners for survey deployment.

Identify expected products/deliverables: 


  • A detailed impact evaluation methodology, including an IRB-approved survey, households or communities selected for treatment and non-treatment, that can be implemented in future SPOUTS water projects
  • Identification and prioritization of specific impact metrics (health, economic, social, environmental, etc.) that will guide survey design and evaluation
  • Baseline data collection, and a report on demographic information of the target community and descriptive statistics of initial state of the community regarding key indicators
  • A strategy for community engagement and training on filter use and maintenance
  • A 4-year plan for continued SWB involvement, and engagement of a new team of U-M students to continue this project


  • Survey design to measure metrics that have been collaboratively identified with SPOUTS team and other stakeholders
  • Travel in Summer 2018 to a) implement of a household survey among the target community, an identified comparison community, conducted alongside enumerators and in conjunction with SPOUTS staff and distributers; b) participate in filter installation and training; and c) obtain data from SPOUTS on other filter distribution programs
  • Academic year 2018-2019: Provide a recommendation for future work with SWB.  If recommendation is to continue as a full 4-year SWB project, engage other SEAS students in this project to ensure it becomes a durable SWB project partnership.
  • Travel in academic year 2018-2019 with new SWB team to collect follow-up data, and familiarize new SWB team with the survey and its implementation.
  • Develop report summarizing survey data and results for SPOUTS to distribute to external parties and stakeholders by April 2019.
Contact full name: 
Rebecca Liebschutz
Job title: 
Sales & Marketing Director
State or Country: 
SEAS Faculty Advisor: 
Jose Alfaro
Contact Phone: 
+256 777-248-856
Contact information: 
SNRE alum
Staff member of a potential client organization
Master Students Involved in Project: 

Fantasia Williams

Project Status: 
In Progress