A project by Watersprint and Yunus Centre is looking to spread smart tech-equipped, solar-powered water purifiers in regions where access to portable water is scarce.
Around 750 million people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water. There are numerous projects that operate in this field, constructing wells and other infrastructure that provide people a safe source of water. Yet upkeep and maintenance of these can be difficult and it is estimated that as many 50,000 clean water supply points across Africa are no longer functional. In order to create long-lasting impact, water purification projects must take this into consideration and, crucially for areas with irregular or no access to electricity, be able to run without relying on a regular power supply.
The UN recently threw its support behind water purification systems developed by Swedish firm Watersprint, sending 500 of the solar-powered devices to Bangladesh. The Watersprint system uses UV-LED technology to power a so-called Micro Production Centre (MPC), which uses filters to remove particles and biological contaminants from water. Each unit is capable of purifying 600 litres of water per hour and can run on just 12 volts of power, which is generated by an accompanying small solar panel. The units are equipped with software that monitors the condition of each system and are WiFi enabled to send alerts to people via SMS when there is a malfunction while the solar panel also charges a battery so the system can be used ‘round the clock
Professor Muhammad Yunus, microcredit pioneer and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, came across the technology, which was predominantly used to treat water in Sweden for disinfection and legionella, and spoke with Watersprint about developing it to remove bacteria and viruses from surface water. In 2015, Watersprint and the Yunus Centre distributed 10 portable water purification systems throughout Bangladesh as part of a pilot programme.
Groundwater contamination is a huge issue in Bangladesh, with an estimated 35 – 77 million people exposed to arsenic via drinking water. With numerous wells dug in areas where arsenic naturally occurs, the high levels of the chemical element in the country’s water supply contribute to 1 in 5 deaths.
As part of the initiative’s longer-term goals, local young people in Bangladesh are being trained to work as distributors of the systems. Each unit will be looked after by a distributor, giving ownership of the system’s maintenance to members of the community rather than relying on an external foreign aid team to take care of repairs. A small fee will be charged for each use, creating new streams of income.
The team behind the initiative is looking to expand the project into three additional countries by 2030. For more insight into the project check out the video below or head to Watersprint’s website.