Clean Drinking Water: It’s a Scarce Commodity

It is the year 2013, yet an estimated 780 million people across the world still do not have access to clean water. This leads to the deaths of 1.6 million people every year, due to diarrhoeal diseases. These are shocking numbers, but scientists are tirelessly working towards lowering them.

Just recently, two water sanitation innovations were revealed. One in Mexico and the other in the Sahara. Both make use of something that has been around since the beginning of time to purify water – the power of the sun.

MIT researchers introduces solar-powered water purification system

Imagine living in a village so remote the nearest source of drinkable water is a day’s drive away. This is the reality for many in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Here, people rely heavily on rain that they have to boil first for drinking water. Circumstances are about to change drastically for the residents of the Yucatan Peninsula however. MIT researchers have introduced a solar-powered water purification system to one of the villages and are planning on rolling it out to others soon.

The purification system consists of photovoltaic panels, a storage tank for the purified water and a shed for all the mechanics involved. These include the pumps and filters that purify the water. The system runs off the photovoltaic panels and can easily meet the daily drinking water needs of the village.Further, the villagers can now purify the water they receive twice a week from local authorities. This water currently is brackish and can only be used for cleaning and washing.

Improvements made to existing concept for Saharan nomads

Life as a nomad in Sub-Saharan Africa is no picnic. Days can go by without coming into contact with water and if it happens, there is a strong possibility that the water is salty. That’s why the introduction of a waterpod to this region is being welcomed with open arms.

The waterpod emulates the natural cycle of cloud condensation and turns undrinkable well water into water that is suitable for consumption. The system is simple to use. Once the waterpod is set up, the user can just pour water into it and then let nature takes it course. Evaporation and condensation will take place with the help of the sun. In this way, 6 litres of clean water can be derived from 12 litres of brackish water every day. Not much is required to keep the waterpod clean and it has a projected lifespan of up to 40 years.

This is not a new concept, but the manufacturers of this specific model altered the design to make the waterpod more durable. Nomads will trek the pod across thousands of kilometres of desert and it will have to be able to withstand the toughest conditions.

Not just a ‘third-world problem’

Don’t think for one moment that unsafe drinking water is an issue only developing nations deal with. Even first-world countries experience problems from time to time. One of the most notorious cases is that of the Thames in the United Kingdom. This river is responsible for water delivery in London and surrounding areas, but is contaminated with fertilisers from farms and phosphorous discharges from companies along the river’s banks. It is estimated that the Thames will not meet set pollution standards next year unless drastic measures are taken.

What we should take from these stories are that water is a scarce natural resources that should be respected and protected. These are not just the responsibilities of government or environment action groups either. Every person who uses water daily should be held accountable. And that is all of us.


Image source: Emran Kassim