A Sustainable Clean Water Project In Northern Serbia

My friend and long-time collaborator Peter and I spent many years working together developing multiple clean water project proposals, as well as several innovative biogas proposals, that for one reason or another were never funded. This was a labor of love and even though these projects never saw the light of day we still believe that they incorporate both technologies and implementation models that offer a viable alternative to the kind of high-dollar mega-projects that international “aid” organizations love, and that almost always fail and leave the people worse off than before they were “aided”.

(As a frame of reference, Peter and I are the principals of “AF&T” referred to in the text below, which stands for “Alternative Fuels & Technologies”.)

What follows is the technical description of such a project, which we developed in 2012 in response to a request from friends and former colleagues in Serbia. Although this project was never funded, it is still a highly viable model for rural development of clean water resources, and could be implemented at any time. Each of our projects was accompanied by detailed financial analysis – if the project didn’t show a positive bottom line after making highly conservative revenue projections and deliberately high cost/expense projections, we didn’t consider it viable.

Our guiding principle was and is: a good project not only has to be innovative; it has to work technically and financially.

My purpose in publishing this Serbia water resource project narrative on panaceachronicles.com is because, although the core topic of this blog is the celebration of the great natural medicine Coca, and its companion healing plant Cannabis, I believe that readers who care about Coca and Cannabis may also care about making the world a better place and be interested in examining alternative, potentially viable ways of doing so.

If this includes you, I hope that you enjoy reading through our little plan for rural Serbia. In the following weeks I will be posting several other, each quite unique water resource development plans for the Dominican Republic and for Sri Lanka.


 Serbia is a country rich in natural resources and its agricultural sector is an important contributor to the overall economy. Alternative Fuels & Technologies (AF&T) is prepared to deliver a unique set of local solutions that help solve among the greatest of Serbia’s environmental challenges, the pollution of ground and surface waters by both natural and man-made contaminants that have, in many places, rendered the water unfit and dangerous for human consumption.

In addition, AF&T offers these solutions based on an integrated system of proprietary, proven technologies and methods that are designed to be manufactured in Serbia, by Serbians, for the benefit of Serbia. As a result business model addresses water quality issues utilizing an innovative approach by not imposing mega-engineering solutions that have a long history of failure in Serbia, but by implementing a micro-solution at the level where it matters most – the individual drawing a fresh glass of water to drink, or making a pot of tea with clean, uncontaminated water.

The proposal is introduce and gain acceptance for a scalable, low-cost, low technology modular water purification system in Serbia. Unlike many previous attempts to assist Serbian towns and villages in dealing with this multi-faceted problem by designing and installing large, expensive engineering solutions that have a long history of repeated, costly failures, we propose to approach the issue by taking small, incremental steps using an appropriate technology that can be scaled up as its performance and cost-effectiveness have been completely demonstrated to everyone’s satisfaction. As we discuss in Appendix One, perhaps the greatest obstacle to any new development project is the legacy of failed projects that have preceded it, and the way to overcome that challenge, we believe, is to identify why the previous projects failed and why the proposed project is not vulnerable to this source of failure.

We believe that we have identified the principal cause of previous failures of water projects in not just in one town but country-wide, and we further believe that our approach addresses this issue. Rather than beginning with a focus just on municipalities and their large scale, complex needs, we propose to begin by also placing a number of these systems five distinct types of environments.

  1. Small villages of between 100-300 people on the outskirts of towns that have severe water quality issues and where water is sourced principally from wells.

    1. A single 500 litre/day unit provides drinking water for 50 adults. So one unit will be installed per 50 adults in the village

  2. Households with children or individuals at risk in towns that have severe municipal water quality issues, concentrating on apartment-dwelling households.

    1. An apartment building with 10-12 families of 4 people each could be served by one 500 litre/day unit, so we will identify buildings that meet that criterion

  3. Small food-related businesses such as cafes and restaurants in towns where municipal water quality is a severe restraint on preparing quality foods and beverages

    1. Depending upon the customer count, one or two 500 litre/day units could serve the needs of many small establishments; we will give preference to establishments that can be served by a single unit

  4. Institutions in towns that serve populations at risk from polluted municipal water such as schools and clinics

    1. Approximately one 500 litre/day unit per 50-75 children, depending on the age of the school population and the number of adult teachers etc. We will identify schools/clinics that can be served by a maximum of two units

  5. Animal/poultry producing farms already practicing organic agriculture or transitioning to organic agriculture who will most readily recognize the importance of pure water for producing quality product.

    1. We will select small operations that will require no more than two or three 500 litres/day units although, if desirable for demonstration purposes, we can scale up the technology to produce up to 5000 litres/day per unit to serve larger ( but still modest-sized) animal/poultry production farms..

We propose to place demonstration systems in each of these five kinds of locations, and to track the impact of the systems on the health and quality of life of the people using appropriate measuring procedures. We will engage the appropriate human resources to track and document these impacts, including health and environmental personnel. This effort will be coordinated by XXXX which has set up dozens of similar tracking and documenting systems in many countries using local public service, NGO and government personnel.

For residents of small villages whose well water is currently heavily contaminated with both natural and chemical/industrial/faecal pollutants, being able to remove these pollutants at the household level represents a winning strategy for individual families.  The small village environment is an excellent platform for demonstrating the benefits of a simple technology that will be seen in improved health, improved environmental quality, and improved quality of life. For residents of urban apartment buildings, having easy access to clean water for drinking and cooking without having to go to a store to buy bottled water will not only be a convenience, it will be a cost-savings. For restaurants and cafes, many of whom probably already have some kind of means of purifying their water, the system that we will offer will have superior performance and customer service advantages. Likewise for schools and clinics – whatever their current system for treating their water, the chemical-free technology that we will install as part of the demonstration project will be experienced as superior. And finally, for small farms, especially those that are currently organic or that are trying to convert to the higher value organic sector, having an on-farm system that is minimal maintenance and that does not require chemicals to purify their water will be a welcome option.

 When coupled with our strategy for placing demonstration units in key areas in the municipalities, including apartment buildings, small food producing businesses like cafes, as well as institutions like schools or clinics, we believe that we will have excellent coverage for a comprehensive, believable demonstration for a sustainable, affordable solution for both individual households and for communities as well

Service Delivery Strategies

Each type of placement of the demonstration units will call for a unique service delivery strategy. Ultimately each strategy will be determined by the circumstances prevailing at the sites that are selected. However, it is possible to speculate on what strategies are most likely to be effective for each type of site.

  1. Small Village Placement

    1. This placement is potentially the most vulnerable to abuse if the water tank is in a public area, with some people taking more than their daily allotment. One approach might be to provide each household with a distinctive water bottle that holds an easily manageable amount of water, and then count on social pressure to note when someone is making more than their share of trips to obtain water. An alternative would be to place an attendant at the site and to pay for the attendant by imposing a small charge per fill-up that falls well within the “Winningness To Pay” guidelines established by EU research. This would have the additional virtue of paying for a person to perform the minimal daily maintenance functions needed to keep the system operating at peak efficiency ( no more than a few minutes a day.)

  2. Urban Apartment Building placement

    1. If we select apartment buildings with resident managers it could easily be the managers responsibility to ensure both compliance with the per-person daily limit and to perform the minimal maintenance required. This could be paid for by a small rent surcharge that falls well within the “Willingness To Pay” parameters established by EU research, which would be monitored to ensure that residents we not being over-charged.

  3. Urban Food Business placement

    1. Since the maintenance of the system requires no more than a few minutes a day, this task could easily be assigned to an employee or performed by management

  4. Urban Institutional placement

    1. Since the maintenance of the system requires no more than a few minutes a day, this task could easily be assigned to an employee or performed by management

  5. Rural Small Organic Farm placement

    1. Since the maintenance of the system requires no more than a few minutes a day, this task could easily be assigned to an employee or performed by management

Phase One

We have identified six towns in Vojvodina where there are well-documented, severe water quality problems, both within the municipality and in the community of villages surrounding the municipality. These six towns, identified in a 2007 research publication as towns where “it is illegal for residents to drink water from the municipal system”.  (“Pollution Of Water Resources In Vojvodina”, Geographica Timisiensis, vol. 20, No. 2, 2011 (pp. 5-12 ). Our initial six target communities, identified in this research publication, and Zrenjanin, Melene, Elemic, Taras, Aradac and Klek.  It is from the cluster of villages around each of these six municipalities that we will select one or two villages as our beginning targets. We have developed a simple list of criteria for selecting our target villages, including evidence of a community will to improve water quality, typicality of the community’s demographics, characteristics of the water quality problem the community faces, and effective community-level leadership.

We will also work with the health authorities and community leadership in each of the towns where we have placement in surrounding villages to identify a set of at-risk families (young children, elderly living alone, household with serious illness, etc), as well as critical locations such as schools, hospitals, and cafes/restaurants where a number of demonstration units can be placed and monitored for results. Our going-in assumption is that we will be placing only our 500 Litre/Day capacity units. In instances where larger units make more sense, they will be provided since the system can be easily scaled up or down. In either case, the appropriate units will be placed, the recipients familiarized with their operation and maintenance, and the progress of the demonstration followed by XXXX and AF&T. When appropriate, testimonials will be solicited and individual results documented.

We will manufacture these units in Serbia by contracting for the basic structure of the system and by importing some of the other components including the filters, the ozonation system, and other components. Final assembly will be performed by contracted skilled labor.

Phase Two

After the introduction and demonstration of these systems in Phase One, we propose to set up one or more Serbian-owned licensed manufacturers of these systems to perform the full manufacturing operation and to work with these manufacturers to promote widespread adoption of the systems in increasingly larger communities. Since the technology we will introduce is scalable from the household to the small community level, this will be a seamless transition, designed to gain acceptance and endorsement at each step before the next step is taken. Ultimately we propose to transition to a second technology designed to stop a major source of water pollution, the under-treatment or lack of treatment of municipal sewage wastes, which will be described in a second briefing paper; one better adapted to function at the level of larger communities, but founded on the success of these smaller systems.

We believe that this entry strategy, beginning with a low-cost, low-maintenance, individually-operated technology represents a long term, if ultimately only an interim solution to the problem of supplying clean drinking and cooking water to the hundreds of small villages and larger towns in Northern Serbia currently suffering severe health and quality of life issues due to the failures of past decades of environmental management, that will take additional decades to remediate.

Both the surface and ground water in the Vojvodina region of Serbia are so heavily contaminated with human and animal faecal matter, naturally-occurring mineralization including a range of toxic compounds, and petrochemical/industrial waste that in many of the major towns and most of the surrounding villages (with shallow wells) the water is literally unsafe for drinking and cooking purposes, and is a particular hazard when used to prepare formula for infants or food for children. In many locations public water supplies as well as private wells are also a health hazard for bathing and for use on crops. (See Appendix 1 for details)

The systems that we will begin with are sized to process sufficient contaminated water to produce 500 Litres of pure high quality drinking water/day. They require no operator attention, and owner-maintenance is minimal. The same is true of any scaled-up larger systems that we may elect to supply to selected in-town locations.

This water purification system, designed and manufactured by XXXX is specifically designed to operate without external power, in conditions of very poor water quality, with a long working life, and the system has low maintenance requirements. Manufacturers of the filtration and oxidation components of the system certify the ability of the system, designed to operate entirely “off the grid”*, to remove 100% of particulate matter and to eliminate 100% of bacteria, protozoa and viruses that are the primary concern of Serbian health authorities water, along with a wide range of common organic toxins like arsenic and lead, which are ubiquitous in the groundwater of Northern Serbia, as well as a wide range of industrial chemicals that are present as a result of decades of mismanagement in the chemical and petroleum industries both in Northern Serbia and up-aquifer from Northern Serbia in Romania. (See Appendix 2 for details)

*The “Off-Grid DC power is supplied by a small solar array; however, an AC power connection wired for the specific needs of local power users can also be integrated into any system.

These initial villages and in-town locations will be selected in order to provide as wide a cross-section as possible of potential system users in multiple locations and under multiple sets of operating conditions. Because the systems will be provided to this initial group at no cost, the quid pro quo will be their participation in a detailed study of the impact of the availability of pure water on their business.

Phase Three

Once these initial users experience the improvement in the quality and heath benefits of clean, filtered water, AF&T, APF and FLAG International will leverage that initial acceptance to make these systems more broadly available by partnering with one or more micro-lending organizations to provide a wide range residents, businesses, institutions and farms with affordable access to pure water.

Once initial acceptance of the system is established, AF&T, XXXX will identify an in-country organization such as a cooperative or non-profit organization that includes women in its leadership and membership and empower that organization to become the licensed manufacturer of this system for Serbia. AF&T, XXXX will provide business start-up and development services for the selected organization(s) as well as ongoing mentoring services. This business will generate revenues from both sales and leasing, and will generate recurring revenues from providing regular annual system maintenance and providing parts for system owners to do their own maintenance. All parties to the program will work to ensure that there is a smooth flow of the needed parts to the in-country manufacturer, distributor, and maintenance provider for the network of larger water purification systems.

We believe that because residents of many if not most towns and villages in the Vojvodina region and elsewhere in Serbia must currently purchase potable water that cash flow can, if we and our Serbian partners approach our demonstration and marketing jobs properly, be diverted to the lease/purchase of in-home and in-business water filtration systems at no net additional expense for most people. Further, with its ability to generate 500 litres/day of pure, potable water that would in a few days make the monthly payment on a household system, many people will understand that ownership of a system will mean a net gain in their access to clean, multi-use water and not simply a one-for-one exchange from purchased drinking water.

AF&T and XXXX will enter into the appropriate agreements with XXXX to provide a continuing supply of all parts for the system, as well as all required technical and management training to enable the selected organization to become a sustainable business. Since multiple systems are part of the available technology, from small household systems to institutional and community-sized systems, this will be a significant business opportunity for the selected group.

In addition to establishing a micro-lending relationship to enable consumer and business purchase of these systems, we will also begin a CrowdSourcing funding effort to raise funds to underwrite the purchase of these systems by individual families who cannot afford even a micro-loan purchase. A second important focus of the CrowdSourcing initiative will be to provide funds to underwrite the acquisition of larger community-sized systems in those situations where purchase of such a system would be an impediment.

Three organizations are entering into this proposal. The developer and owner of world rights to the system is XXXX with headquarters in XXXX and manufacturing facilities in China PRC. XXXX will manufacture and provide the initial systems for this program, with funding for the initial acquisition provided by UNDP. This will enable the program to place a number of these systems in the hands of selected Phase One Demonstration Villages and towns without the need for financial commitment on their part.

XXXX the manufacturer and system integrator, will utilize the internet to work with AF&T and XXXX, both on the ground in Serbia, to provide technical consulting services to trainers and adopters throughout the program as needed. XXXX may decide take on additional roles in the project, which will be determined by discussions between all principals involved.

XXXX will provide Alternative Fuels & Technologies of Rollingsford, New Hampshire (AF&T), with an exclusive license to represent their products in Serbia.  AF&T and XXXX will coordinate with in-country NGO’s that may want to utilize these water filtration systems in their own programs. AF&T and XXXX will also have primary responsibility for initiating replication of the program in other developing countries that UNDP designates as market targets, coordinating at every step with XXXX and as well as UNDP.

As mentioned above, as a condition of receiving the systems and training in their use at no cost village and town residents and operators of small businesses such as cafes in the villages and towns, will have to agree to participate in detailed follow-up studies designed to document the value of these systems to the end-users both in terms of increased household health, improved taste of the water, improved cooking results when using the water, improved taste of brewed beverages such as tea and coffee, and other benefits that they may enjoy, such as healthier animals and better results in household gardens. By documenting this information, coming from people who have been selected because their problems and their environment are representative of hundreds of similar communities, support for the roll-out of the system on both commercial and philanthropic levels will be enhanced.

After this initial stage, the roll-out of additional systems will be market driven through purchases and, to the extent possible, through CrowdSourced funding rather than through UNDP underwriting. Once the value of these systems has been demonstrated by the reactions of the initial users and their customers, we believe that others will want to have these systems, both for commercial and household purposes, and we will be prepared to facilitate that demand through our arrangements with micro-lending NGOs as well as through our CrowdSourcing program.

 The initial selection and training of Serbian manufacturing partners on the ground in Serbia will be conducted by AF&T and XXXXwho will also be the leads in providing technical and management training for the selected in-country manufacturing organization. XXXX will provide AF&T with the necessary licensing agreements for in-country manufacturing, and will maintain the component supply chain to service the manufacturing organization. XXXX will have primary responsibility for follow-up and evaluation of the initial “demonstration village & town” stage of the program, as well as the roll-out to other end-users. This will include surveying system users to determine their level of satisfaction with the benefits to their families, as well as providing reports on the performance of the systems under the range of conditions in which the systems will be functioning.

 AF&T, XXXX and XXXXwill also coordinate with in-country NGO’s that may want to utilize these water purification systems in their own programs. AF&T will also have primary responsibility for initiating replication of the program in other developing countries that UNDP designates as market targets, coordinating at every step with XXXXand XXXX as well as UNDP.

 How XXXX Will Support In-Country Manufacturing

 The XXXX System has been engineered to allow a progressive manufacturing/assembly ramp using a mix of in-country and imported components.  Simple manufacturing processes and techniques can be employed to produce the in-country components within the allowable specifications which ensures proper operation of the overall system once assembled.  Not only will this promote direct involvement by the local manufacturing base thereby stimulating the economy in a sustainable way through a recurring revenue model, it provides the region with a sense of ownership within the products they are using.

XXXX will support this initial introduction of key component manufacturing into the local economy by providing AF&T with the necessary engineering drawings and specifications, and by working with XXXX trainers to ensure full technology transfer.  XXXX will also work with AF&T and UNDP to qualify the manufacturing company personnel in the production of the appropriate components and the integration of outside-sourced components.  Additional training in the areas of assembly technique, quality control, and materials management can conducted in association with XXXX’s trainers.

 The initial manufacturing will task will be to produce the plastic collection and holding tanks along with their supporting structure.  The holding tanks are typically a plastic molded component and require the services of at least a single molding factory as well as several supporting factories associated with the construction of the necessary mold and the molds maintenance.  These tanks are simple molds, well within the capability of a small plastics container manufacturer in a developing country. In addition to sourcing the tanks, the in-country manufacturer will coordinate with AF&T and XXXX to set up a JIT system of shipping the critical parts for the system to the assembly/manufacturing facility. In addition to manufacturing/assembly of systems this facility can serve as a distribution center as well as a parts and maintenance warehouse.

Production of the supporting structure for the tanks requires common low-technology manufacturing practices for metal structural fabrication.  XXXX will supply AF&T with engineering drawings to support the local effort to fabricate a ridged structure capable of supporting the holding tanks in their operating condition.  Additional support for sustainability includes assistance in materials and components development, and assistance with shipping and installation, both available as needed for the development of the local manufacturing and service capability.


A core purpose of our proposed demonstration is to document that given the nature of the contaminants in both surface a ground water, and the hazardous nature of many public water supply systems in Vojvodina, an approach that focuses on providing small-scale distributed technology for removing almost all known contaminants (See Appendix 1) at an initial cost of @ $125/person for a system with a 10-20 year working life and annual maintenance/replacement parts cost of @ $25/person is far cheaper than a high technology, single system to provide safe water for an entire community at a cost of millions. In addition, with a single system, failure of the system puts the whole community at risk; whereas with a highly decentralized system of units each providing pure water for 50 people/day, failures (if they did occur) would affect only small clusters of people and could be addressed effectively within 24 hours by simply replacing the failed part or the whole system.

As it turns out we do have a way to estimate the value of the benefits of access to safe, clean, good-tasting drinking, brewing and cooking water in Vojvodina. In an 80 page, highly detailed 2004 study by Radmilo Pešic and Jochem Jantzen of TME, The Institute for Applied Environmental Economics, University of Belgrade, College of Agriculture, Dept. of Agricultural Economics entitled “Assessment Of The Economic Value Of Environmental Degradation In Serbia”, we find in-depth documentation of the costs of many different kinds of environmental pollution, including several chapters on the costs of the economic damage of water pollution.

The analysis is sophisticated and complex, and we will not attempt to present all the findings here. However, a few selected quotes are relevant to the issue of the potential acceptance of the benefits of the approach that we are proposing.

“ 4.4.1 Introduction

Especially in Vojvodina groundwater resources are depleted due to overexploitation and pollution.

Therefore, in many cases groundwater cannot anymore be withdrawn from the first aquifer, but

need to be withdrawn from deeper aquifers.

This is not only a loss of resources, but also poses a (drinking)water quality problem, as the

concentrations of Arsenic are elevated (in 22% of samples). Also Mercury (47% of samples) and

Cadmium (25% of samples) show concentrations above standards. So the second aquifer is not

always well suited to produce drinking water (but also using it for irrigation will lead in the long

term to accumulation of heavy metals in soils and the food chain).

“ 4.4.2 Methodology

To value this damage to the groundwater resources an estimate has been made of the amount of

water that cannot anymore be withdrawn from the first aquifer, and the price of production of

drinking water has been applied to this.

“ 4.4.3 Estimated damage to groundwater resources in Vojvodina

The total amount of groundwater that is affected is estimated as follows:

– the total annual groundwater extraction in Vojvodina (6 m3/second), which results in an

annual production of 189 million cubic meters;

– 57% of groundwater needs to withdrawn from the second aquifer;

– this results in a total annual loss of groundwater resources from the first aquifer of 107 million

cubic meter water annually.

The cost of production of (high quality) drinking water is not precisely known. Therefore, we have

taken the price of water in Belgrade for consumers7 as an indication of the minimum damage

value, being € 0.30 per cubic meter (20 dinars). The high estimate is estimated to be 2 times

higher, € 0.60 per cubic meter (which is still less than 50% of the unit costs as estimated by TME

for the Netherlands (see annex 2)) 

This results in an annual estimated damage due to the depletion of groundwater resources in

Vojvodina of at least € 32.4 million annually, and a maximal damage of € 64.7 million.

As we were only able to assess damages in Vojvodina, it can be anticipated that the total damage

to groundwater resources in Serbia will be larger 

“ 4.6 Alternative approach to assess the damages of water pollution in Serbia

As we have applied a different methodology than in the study on the “Benefits of the

environmental acquis for Accession countries” (Ecotec, 2000), it is interesting to see how our

estimate would compare to an estimate using the Ëcotec” methodology (see for detailed

description of the Ecotec methodology, Ecotec, 2000, p. 173 – 193). This method tries to link

results of Willingness to Pay studies in various countries to the Central and Eastern European

Countries. As it assesses the Willingness to Pay for improvements (but no total abolishment of

pollution) results do not necessarily reflect the total damage of depleted water quality.

In the Ecotec approach three types of benefits of water management have to be assessed:

– to drinking water;

– to recreational use of water;

– to non user value of rivers and lakes.

The Willingness to Pay for improved (high quality) water supply is estimated by taking average

UK and US WTP-figures (per household € 25 – € 650 per year), apply a PPP correction (resulting

in € 3,38 – € 60 per household per year for Serbia), and estimate the share of the affected

households (25% in Serbia, 623,000). This results in total annual benefits of € 2.1 million to € 71.4


 NOTE: This analysis concerns the “Willingness To Pay” for environmental initiatives to improve the water supply, not the amount that residents of Vojvodina might be willing to pay for personal access to clean, unpolluted drinking water. However the entire study, only a small portion of which is cited above, makes it clear that there is a virtually universal awareness of the poor and even hazardous quality of water in Vojvodina, which bodes well for the acceptance of our approach and our technology once it has been effectively demonstrated and understood.



Zrenjanin, Serbia, is located in the eastern Vojvodina region of Northern Serbia. It is a pretty town of @ 73,000 people in the town proper, with a population of @ 123,000 when considering the surrounding dozens of small villages. It is the 3rd largest town in Vojvodina, and the 6th largest ton in Serbia.


The number of households according to the (most recent available) census in 2002, is 46,375, while in the town alone there are about 35,000 of them. Average number of household members, according to the same census, in the municipality as a whole, is 2.99 and in the town itself 2.78. Most numerous are those households which have 4 members – 11,568. Total number of apartments in Zrenjanin Municipality is about 33,000. According to these numbers, which may be outdated but which appear from other indicators not to have changed very much, a large majority of the households in Zrenjanin are apartment-dwellers. Of 35,000 households there are 33,000 apartments, and of 35,000 households there are 11,568 with 4 (or more) residents. A total of 4 or more residents in a household implies families with children.

In 2007 health authorities declared it illegal for residents to drink the water from the Zrenjanin municipal system. Zrenjanin is only one of a number of Serbian towns whose water has been declared illegal for humans to consume – others include Melene, Elemic, Taras, Aradac and Klek. (NOTE: Our plan is to address this broad issue by identifying one or two villages in the municipal area surrounding each of these towns and then to work from the periphery toward the center once the household technology has proven itself affordable and effective.)

In the introduction to a 213 page planning document “Municipality Of Zrenjanin: Sustainable Development Strategy With Action Plan Of Realization For 2006-2008”, the major had this to say to the citizens:

This document is a long- term projection of the development of our Municipality, with a vision of Zrenjanin Municipality as it should be in 2013.”

Our wish is that, starting from what we are, our values and advantages, we ourselves create conditions for a sustainable development of Zrenjanin, our villages and local government according to our needs.”

“Our common need is to live a nicer, better and safer life. To have, as many carefree children, as possible. To create conditions for elderly people to live decently out of their pensions, because they had deserved that .To give jobs to all unemployed people. To make factory workshops full again and to produce more and more. To give good earnings to the employed, so that they can satisfy their own needs and the needs of their families. To supply our citizens with healthy drinking water. To preserve nature at Carska Bara and to make good use of it in sustainable way. To attract more and more tourists, because we have things to offer. To improve life in the country. To reconstruct old and build new roads and residential buildings. To finish a detour and to displace transit traffic out of the town center. To make our Municipality the most beautiful and the cleanest in Vojvodina. To turn problems with waste materials into a serious project. To bring back life into the Begej and to filter all waste water.”

There is a long history of attempts by both domestic and foreign engineering firms to develop solutions for the delivery of quality water to the town of Zrenjanin ( see pp. 50-52 of planning document). All have failed, each for its own reasons. Sometimes the technology was inadequate to deal with the challenging chemistry of the water, and sometimes the solution worked but was too expansive and unsustainable.

There are 17 villages within the boundaries of Zrenjanin municipality, and every one has longstanding unsolved water quality issues. (NOTE: Our proposal is to begin by addressing the water problem in one or two of these villages rather than beginning with the municipality itself.)

A few excerpts from the 2005 planning document illustrate the nature and depth of the water quality problem facing Zrenjanin and the surrounding villages.

“ Dominant types of polluting matters that endanger the quality of ground waters correspond to the dominant economic activities (grouped and scattered polluters) performed on the territory of our Municipality, therefore it could be concluded that in the ground waters the traces of both present and past economic activities may be found, through cooling, sanitary and technological waters, i.e. various kinds of organic an inorganic matters, suspended and mechanical particles, hard metals, detergents, colours, solvents, pesticides etc.The pollution of ground waters due to the fecal sewage system waters is not to be neglected since Aleksandrovo canal shows the large concentrations of pollution and total inability of self-cleaning.” (page 99)

When it comes to the issue of the quality of drinking water which is used for the supplying of Zrenjanin, it should be said that this water has exceptionally complex physical-chemical composition. The consequence of this is that the quality of deep waters of the North and Middle Banat has never met many of the criteria of the Regulations of Hygienic standards of drinking water.

“According to the findings of the Department of Health Care, during a continual one year monitoring 2002/2003 and also later up to now, it was concluded that drinking water used in Zrenjanin does not satisfy hygienic standards due to its physical-chemical characteristics, i.e.

  • Inappropriate organoleptic features (colour, smell, taste),

  • A high content of resolved salts,

  • A high content of organic materia,

  • The increased levels of ammoniac, manganese, iron and arsine.

“Microbiological indicators correspond to the analyses performed so far because the percentage of the analyses with unsatisfying findings is between 15-25%. The most frequent causes of this low quality are saprophytes bacteria. The characteristics of water supply pipes, the way of disinfection, together with specific water supplying all result in the above mentioned microbiologically unsatisfying results.” (page 97)

As mentioned above, there have been decades of failed attempts to solve these problems on a grand scale, but never before – to the best of our knowledge – has the “micro-approach” that we propose been tried, nor have any of the past projects incorporated an in-country manufacturing, distribution and sales component that benefits the economy of the region and the country as a whole. For these reasons we believe that, in spite of a long and disappointing history of outside firms coming into their community with proposed solutions, the leadership and people of the communities where we propose to begin may be willing to give this approach a try. Our guess is that they really have no other effective options before them.

It may be useful to review what the planners and authorities in one Serbian town, Zrenjanin, see as the history of failure of “big water” projects in their community, on the assumption that many if not most Serbian communities will have a similar story to tell, and a similar legacy for us to overcome. The following passages come from pages 50-52 of the planning document “Municipality Of Zrenjanin: Sustainable Development Strategy With Action Plan Of Realization For 2006-2008”

“The first research projects at discovering suitable technology for acquiring drinking water of good quality, were started in 1975 by the Slovenian firm “SOP KRŠKO“ together with the Austrian firm “Owerhof“ from Vienna.

“Research activities at the “pilot “ continued for almost three years, but suggested solution required a very large consumption of chemicals, so that it did not get the consent from the Revision Board from the School of Civil Engineering in Belgrade, and this technology was given up.

“The second “pilot research” was done by the French firm “DEGREMON” from Paris in 1981. According to suggested technology, the following phases of water treatment were anticipated: aeration, pre-ozoning, flocculation at pulsators, sand filtration, ozoning, filtration at active carbon, reservoir of clean water.

“This technological solution got the consent from Revision Board from the School of Civil Engineering in Belgrade and they got down to work on the conceptional project and on the main project titled Plants for drinking water processing. This job was done by the Institute for waterpower engineering “Jaroslav Černi “ from Belgrade. During the drawing up of the main project and acquiring all approvals from Zrenjanin Municipal Assembly, the decision was made on forming «a water factory in construction» and the Assembly got down to work on the realization of this project: a lot was bought up, a fence was put up around the construction site, a choice concerning the equipment suppliers was made,etc..

“Due to current political turmoils in the state in 1989, Zrenjanin Municipal Assembly made a decision on terminating “ water factory in construction “ and all activities concerning this project were stopped.  

“In September of 2002, the first pilot research was started after 13 years in order to check out what could be acquired by application of new technologies in drinking water refining (membrane technologies are). “UNIVERSAL AQUA TECHNOLOGY “ through Belgrade firm “AQUA INTERMA “, put up its “pilot“ plant and on the basis on the plant’s work, during the period of about a month, and on testing filtration on membranes for reverse osmosis and nanofiltration, with primary chemically treated ground and river water ( at “ Jezera “ ), they submitted their work report. It was obvious out of this report that by using membrane technology we could get water of expected quality, but the quantity of waste water was very large, about 30%, so that such a solution would be, for sure, very expensive for us at the present moment ( although economic proposal had not been written) because, besides the technological solution, works should be also done on an increase of water source capacity by 50%.

“In January of 2003, a German-Hungarian firm “Waterlink “installed its “pilot plant “( Dunasend filter – san filter in constant motion). The plant, which at several places in Hungary gave good solutions in removing iron, arsenic and organic substances out from water, used FeCl3 – Ferro III chloride, KMnO4 – potassium permanganate and compressed air in the refining process. By the application of this technology, arsenic was successfully removed from water, but the concentration of iron and organic substances was still high, and water turbidity was increased compared to raw water. All of that could be read in the results from acquired chemical analysis. Final report on functioning of this system was not received, so that further research by the use of this technology was canceled.

“In May and June of 2003, an Italian firm “CULLIGAN “, through Belgrade firm “Landcompany“, installed its “pilot plant” with three fast sand filters which worked under pressure using FeCl3 and Al2(SO4)3 as flocculants and correction of water pH- value. In a month of work they did not succeed in getting appropriate quality of water. Given explanation was that they needed additional equipment which they would bring during summer break, but instead of that, they took away their dosage pumps. The research was not continued, three sand filters remained behind and the final report on the work of this plant was never submitted.

“By the end of January 2004, Hungarian-Canadian «ZENON» installed its container type pilot – plant (with chemical pretreatment and membrane vacuum filtration). Researches were conducted till the end of April 2004, but as they did not get expected results regarding removal of organic substances and ammonia, this «pilot» was replaced by another «pilot» which consisted of two units connected in a line. In the first part, water pH value was corrected by HCl to pH 5.5 – 6.5 together with addition of «BOPAC» (polyaluminiumchloride) as the flocculation substance. After the floccule sedimentation, water was filtered by ZeeWeed membranes (vacuum nanofiltration). Then, the air was blown into water obtained in such a way and water was sent into the next unit where the second flocculation took place with the help of 1% solution of KMnO4 and 10% solution of FeCl3. After the flocks were settled, for the second time water was filtered through ZeeWeed membranes, so that in the end we get water with very small contents of organic substances (KMnO4 expense 2 – 3 mg/l), water is without arsenic As and iron Fe, which are below the allowed limit, but chlorides are extremely increased – over 400 mg/l although in raw water there is only 30 mg/l of them. At the same time there is an increase in electrical conductivity so that at that moment it was about 1800 μS/cm, although in unprocessed water it was 1200 μS/cm. By this procedure the quantity of ammonia in water was still unchanged, as well as the quantity of sodium Na, although these elements were also found in unprocessed water in the quantity that was over maximum allowed quantity.

“A Slovakian firm «ENERGO CONTROLS» s.r.o, Žilina, brought its pilot – plant which was in function from July till the end of November 2004. Very specific technology, only recently introduced into the process of water refining in Germany and Slovakia (it is applied mostly in a few built systems for waste waters refining ). Process was marked as «electrical – flocculation» during which unprocessed water was led into the line formed by iron and aluminum electrodes, fed with direct current of 12 V, but of very high amperage (about 250 A). After water and electrodes were in contact from 5 to 20 minutes, water with formed floccules was sent to lamellar settling device where flocs in the form of mud went out and supernatant was driven over Kaligen’s filter with active carbon. After that, NaOCl (Javel water 2%)was added to water by dosage pump, and then it flew through quick sand filter, and as clean water flew out of the system. It was very hard to do optimization of this procedure, regarding inexperience in the work with such technology, because it happened that while adjusting work on one parameter, the other one immediately «sprang » out of balance.

“ATN – SLAP, patent by Branko Stančević, worked in the period from August till November 2004. The system was made of 3 vertical columns filled with patented filler (most probably the combination of zeolites, tuff, active carbon, quartz sand, etc.). Water flew through them, then it passed over three cascades and went out.

This plant did not give results that patent proposer expected. This system did only partial removal of Fe, Mn, NH3, As for about 30%. After a month of work, about 10 filtering units with same fillers were added, but results remained on the same level. Although water went through these filters, it still had almost all components above MAQ, as well as unprocessed water (organic substance was completely unchanged), so that they had almost no effect on the refining of our water.

“HIDROFIL KFT – NAĐ KANJIŽA, worked in the period from the month of May till November 2004. In the process of water refining this firm used nanofiltration or reversible osmosis, together with application of different columns with very specific fillers for prefiltration or additional filtration (columns were manufactured by «PENTAIR» – USA). Several different variants were tested, but in the end, with mutual consent, it was agreed that the best results were achieved when the following procedure was applied: deferrization – nanofiltration –ion-exchanging column – clear water. System worked all the time in a way that about 600 l/h of unprocessed water entered, and about 500 l/h of clean water exited it. Water was of very standardized and equalized quality. Waste water made 20% of total quantity of water that entered the system and there were attempts to refine it on reversible osmosis, so that total quantity of waste water came to less then 2 – 3 %. Entry waste water was under big chemical encumbrance and its direct application to RO had series of defects (necessary high pressure, inadequate membrane washing, unequalized water inflow), and the consequence was cracking of one of RO membranes, so that further research of waste water processing in that way, was given up.  

“HP INSTITUTE FOR GENERAL AND PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY – BELGRADE, started its operations in the month of May 2004. At the beginning of May this Institute organized a pilot research in the residential place of Elemir, where they brought a pilot – plant, constructed especially for this research. System consisted of flocculation procedure with FeCl3 and polyelectrolyte, where, when water was settled, released floc went through the filter filled with «specially activated anthracite». With lots of difficulties concerning establishing full automatization in the work of this system, it was not before September that first results were received, but a continous work of 24 hours a day was not established until today.  

“LINDE – DREZDEN, GERMANY, was working from 20.07.2004 till spring 2005. That was a pilot – system of container type that consisted of classical chemical water pretreatment with different flocculants and plyelectrolytes. Mixing with different chemical substances could be achieved in 4 smaller pools and in that way flocs, that should settle in a settling device, could be produced. After water had been «calmed» in two pools, it was filtered through sand filter, and then a part of it, with the help of high pressure pump, went through RO membranes, so that produced clear water was mixed with water acquired after the process of filtration through sand filter until «mixed water» was attained with electrical conductivity of about 900 μS/cm, that should represent water of the quality used by the consumers. One additional filtering column was introduced subsequently, with the filler of granulated active carbon (GAC) – of «NORIT» brand, and there, water was driven over GAC, after it had been through sand filter, in order to compare results got from these columns with the results from RO. “

Since the planning document is from 2005-2006 we have no current information regarding approaches that have been tried since, but our on-the-ground information is that the problems that Zrenjanin and its surrounding villages faced when this document was crafted remain pretty much unresolved. That is why we believe that an approach that is the opposite of all the failed projects before, including starting with the lowest denominator – the person at the household faucet drawing a glass of drinking water or a pot of water for tea – will prove to be the way forward to a sustainable solution on a larger scale, a solution for the whole community and for communities like Zrenjanin across Serbia.

APPENDIX TWO: Water Filtration Performance Metrics

Performance Data on Stage 1 Gravity-Fed  Ceramic Filters In XXXX Systems

Stage 1 Ceramic Filter Performance

Stage 1 – Bacteria Eliminated


E. Coli – all strains

> 99.99

Type Of Treatment

Ceramic Filtration

Fecal Bacteria – all strains

> 99.99%

Filter Effective Life – Medium Serv.

12 Months


> 99.999 %

Working Temperatures



> 99.99 %


> 99.999 %

NSE Approved



> 99.999 %

WRAS Approved


Cryptosporidium Cysts


Giardia Cysts


Particulate Reduction To NSF Standard 42


Lead Reduction To NSF Standard 53


Chlorine Reduction To NSF Standard 42


Turbidity Tolerance

<1.0 NTU

Absolute Filtration Level

0.9 Microns

Effective Ceramic Filter Rating >99.99%

0.5 – 0.8 Microns

Effective Ceramic Filter Rating >99.7%

0.3 – 0.5 Microns

Effective Ceramic Filter Rating >98.0%

0.2 – 0.3 Microns

Performance Data On Stage 2 stand-alone DC Solar-Cell (With AC option) Powered O3 Oxidation Treatment Used In AquaPureTechnologies Systems

Stage 2 – Oxidation Of Organics

Organics Oxidized & Eliminated

Rate Of Oxidation

Type of Treatment

O3 Oxidation

Algae – Blue & Green


Bacteria – All


Treatment Cycle

30 Minutes

E. coli – all


Diffuser Replacement

12 Months

Micrococcus – All


O3 Oxidizer Replacement

12 Months

salmonella – All


Shingella – Dysentry


Working Temperature

5-45 oC

Fungi, Molds, Yeasts


Operational pH Range

< 9.0





GMP_Approved By FDA For Bottled Water Sanitation




IBWA Approval




Antimicrobial Food Additive Approval By USDA National Organic Program


Trematodes – All


Virus – all common


Odor Removal

Yes – No detectability

Hepatitus including A, E, HAV, non-A, non-B


Taste Improvement

Yes – Consistent In All Studies

Mycovirua Influenza


Stage 2: Oxidation Of Inorganics

Inorganic Oxidized & Eliminated

Rate Of Oxidation





















Organic Acids


Hydrogen Sulfides


Sulfur Compounds






For Detailed Reference Data Contact:



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