6 Solutions To The Potable Water Crisis

The World Health Organization says that every year more than 3.4 million people die as a result of water related diseases, such as diarrhea, cholera and typhoid. “Overcoming the crisis in water and sanitation is one of the greatest human development challenges of the early 21st century,” a UN report states.

Image Courtesy: Wikimedia

Image Courtesy: Wikipedia Foundation

Most modern water filters require electricity to function, which is scarce in the third world, while those that do not require electricity are expensive to manufacture. This makes clean water almost inaccessible for economically backward communities.

Listed below are some simple innovations that use existing technology or natural phenomena to address the problem:

1. LifeStraw

LifeStraw was designed with special emphasis on portability. Lifestraw requires no electricity or battery and uses a simple mechanical filter. To use it, a person simply sticks the LifeStraw directly into the water source and drinks as he or she would from a straw. It relies mainly on the weight of the water to perform filtration. Additionally, with no replaceable and movable parts, it is less wasteful. A quart of water can be processed in eight minutes using LifeStraw.

How it works:
When you suck on LifeStraw, water is forced through hollow fibers, which contain pores less than 0.2 microns across. Any dirt, bacteria or parasites are trapped in the fibers, while the clean water passes through.

The ready-to-use durable water filter can filter up to 1000 liters of water. This video shows how the hand-sized tool can be used to drink water directly from the stream:

2. Solar Ball

On a trip to Cambodia Jonathan Liow, an Australian student observed that the region enjoyed ample sunlight and came up with the idea of developing a solar distillation unit. Solarball capitalizes on the condensation principle of evaporation to extract potable water from polluted water.

Designed specifically for use by people in hot, wet, tropical climates, Solarball can produce up to three liters of clean water daily. In addition, food-safe and recyclable plastic is used to make the product.

How it works:
The portable device separates contaminants from the water by isolating the the pure evaporated water and collecting it in a condensed form. Filtration is easy, undrinkable water is poured from one nozzle and clean water is dispensed from the other. The video below shows how the personal and portable water purification device uses the natural process to give clean, drinking water:

3. Life Sack

Problems of food and water often go hand in hand and charities such as World Vision and the UN send food grains packed in sacks to affected areas. Using this information, three Korean industrial designers came up with the ‘Life Sack’, a food sack that doubles-up as a water purification kit using the popular SODIS process.

Life Sack

Life Sack

By building this popular device into food bags the designers have ensured that water reaches everywhere food assistance is being sent. Life Sack is designed so that it can be worn as a backpack making both the food and water easily transportable from source to community.

Image courtesy: Inhabitat.com

Image courtesy: Inhabitat.com

How it works:
Life sack uses thermal treatment based SODIS (Solar Water Disinfection) process to filter contaminated water. A layer of additional protection using UV-A radiation is also used as a second step.

4. ‘Pure’ Water bottle filter

Timothy Whitehead, a graduate from Loughborough University, while travelling in Zambia was moved by the problem faced by the locals in acquiring clean drinking water. He developed the Pure Water Bottle filter that uses a combination of four micron-sized water filters and a dynamo-powered ultraviolet light system to eliminate up to 99.9% impurities from contaminated water.

How it works:
The procedure is extremely simple. Dirty water is poured in the outer chamber, the inner chamber is then put in and a crankshaft is used to filter out purified water. The bottle includes an indicator to monitor the sterility of water.

See how Tim Whitehead uses the ‘Pure’ water bottle to purify soiled lake water and drink it:

5. Water Producing Billboards

The University of Engineering and Technology (UTEC) and ad agency Mayo DraftCFB have developed the world’s first water producing billboard in Lima. The billboard, takes advantage of 98% humidity to extract safe-to-drinking water from the atmosphere using reverse osmosis. Equipped with air, water and carbon filter, the system can generate up to 96 liters of water daily and can store up to 20 liters of water at a time.

Image from bigthink.com

Image courtesy: bigthink.com

How it works:
The billboard uses condensers and reverse osmosis to convert humidity into pure, drinkable water. A simple tap gives local residents access to the water.

Take a look at a billboard quenching the thirst of local-ites and travelers:

6. Cycloclean

Cycloclean is a water purifier that functions using manpower. This bicycle mounted device has been developed for disaster zones and remote locations and utilizes kinetic energy from pedaling to purify water. The bike is capable of purifying five liters of water in one minute and is powerful enough to pump out water from a depth of five meters.



The bikes can also be used for their original purpose making it easy for them to reach remote locations and are still useful after the filters are used up in about 2 years. The manufacturers of this device are looking at adapting it for the developing world by setting-up manufacturing facilities in Bangladesh and bringing down the now prohibitive cost of $6600 per unit.

How it works:
After parking the bike near a water body, the rider lowers a hose into the water. He then climbs back on, keeping the rear wheel off the ground.  On pedalling, the pump gets powered forcing the water into the primary filter. The water moves on to an activated carbon filter and finally passes through a “microfiltration membrane filter” before being collected in the vessel of choice.

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