It is so simple that we rarely think about it: we turn on the tap and are immediately able to quench our thirst, shower or wash with what comes out. But that’s far from being everyone’s reality – water is for many a scarce commodity, with 30 per cent of the world’s population having no access to so-called “safely managed” water. This means water that is close by, available when needed and free of pollution. These figures are particularly high in countries in sub-Saharan Africas, where 67 to 76 per cent of people have no access to safe drinking water. Within sub-Saharan Africa’s billion-strong population (sub-Saharan Africa includes 49 of the 54 African states, i.e. all except the five Arab countries on the Mediterranean) that totals more than 670 million people.
Making Drinking Water With Solar Energy
There are serious health consequences to drinking polluted water. According to the WHO, drinking polluted water is responsible for half a million deaths every year. An engineering company based in Berlin – Boreal Light – has come up with a solution to what continues to be a serious global problem.
Boreal Light’s desalination systems, called “Wintures”, are able to desalinate, purify and sterilise salty or brackish water via an integrated reverse osmosis system – a process whereby water molecules are forced through a semipermeable membrane to remove contamination. Powered by a combination of solar and wind energy, they are able to run completely off-grid. They are designed to be able to withstand extreme weather conditions such as heat and storms, run completely automatically and require very little maintenance.
They’re also able to generate energy in off-grid areas, which can be used to charge devices such as radios or mobile phones. They can produce up to 650 litres of drinking water per hour (equivalent to just over four full bathtubs) and charge up to ten devices at the same time.
Boreal Light currently operates eleven water kiosks on the Kenyan coast and, with the help of the Wintures, is able to sell the treated water for two thirds or even a half of the usual market price. The kiosks also create jobs in areas where wage labour is often scarce. The company plans to set up 192 water kiosks in Kenya and Tanzania by 2020.
This is a translation by Marisa Pettit of an original article which first appeared on RESET’s German-language site.