According to the United Nations, dirty water is killing more people than war—or violence in general. According to the 2010 World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program (JMP), about 780 million people—a tenth of the world’s population—do not have access to clean drinking water. Purifying water to make it safe for consumption can be a time-consuming, expensive process. The challenge is to create a safe, effective way to treat drinking water in poorer nations – without an enormous financial burden.
Fortunately, several researchers, groups and individuals are not only active in this space, but are also working on cutting-edge technology. For instance, a Swiss company has developed a unique distribution method called “LifeStraw" to get clean water to those who need it. A person simply sticks the “LifeStraw” device directly into a water source and uses it like a straw. The product incorporates mechanical filtration through a microfiltration device that can purify about 1,000 liters of water a year or 2.7 liters a day.
An MIT engineer is also experimenting with the xylem tissue found in plants for water filtration. Xylem transports water in the form of sap from the roots to the leaves. It also has membranes with pores that effectively sift any nasty bacteria. Wood is the best known xylem tissue, making it an attractive and cost-effective material for water filtration.
Japan’s Nippon Basic company recently introduced a water-purifying bike called “Cycloclean” for use in remote villages and disaster zones. Using kinetic energy to purify water, Cycloclean users can ride the bike to any nearby body of water for immediate access to a source of potable drinking water.
With an objective to aid underdeveloped populations that lack access to clean drinking water, a graduate student at an Australian university developed an inexpensive and relatively small spherical device called the “Solarball”. This device utilizes the power of the sun to purify water, i.e., leveraging evaporation to separate dirt and contaminants, resulting in over three quarters of potable water every day.
While efforts are being made worldwide to improve the quality of water through low-cost filtration devices, the fragility of water resources makes it imperative to have more concrete plans on water management, conservation, and pollution in the developing world.
How else can technology be used to generate clean, potable water? Please leave your comments in the section below.