Water of life

Three simple inventions bring clean water to the poorest corners of the planet


Andi McDaniel | November 2005 issue

Throughout wide stretches of the developing world, clean water can’t be taken for granted. Too often, it’s the source of deadly bacterial diseases like typhoid, cholera, and e. coli contamination. An estimated 600 people die every day due to unsafe drinking water.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. The Western world not only has sophisticated filtration for its urban drinking water but plenty of other gadgets to ensure water quality, from Brita purifiers in the kitchen to backcountry water filters used by backpackers. Inventions like these could be used in the developing world if only they were cheap, durable, and easy to distribute.

Those are the exactly qualities that INDEX—a Copenhagen-based international network of designers, organizations, and institutions—was seeking this year as part of their “Design to Improve Life” awards event (www.index2005.dk) held every four years. Here are three affordable low-tech water purifying systems that show promise for developing nations that were entered in the competition.

LifeStraw: It sucks—and that’s good
At 2 dollar U.S., LifeStraw is unusually affordable. Modeled after the simple drinking straw we all know, it has the advantage of being small (25 cm long or 10 inches) and easy to use. And since it has no moving parts, there’s no need for electricity or fuel.

Originally designed by Torben Vestergaard Frandsen of Denmark, the LifeStraw relies on suction to force water through textile filters, which catch sediment. The water is then exposed to bacteria-killing agents like iodine and sent through active carbon, which catches all remaining parasites. One LifeStraw can purifiy 700 litres, the personal water supply of one person for a year.

Solar Pasteurization Unit: Letting the sun do the work
In areas with a contaminated water supply, residents are often told to boil their water. But with limited access to wood or other fuels, that’s not always feasible. Luckily, the sun’s rays are limitless.

Developed in Denmark, the Solar Pasteurization Unit looks like a slide projector, tilted to reflect sunlight onto a black cylinder containing a 1.5 litre bottle, which heats up to over 100 degrees Celsius. To kill all pathogenic bacteria, the first batch of water requires one and a half hours; consecutive batches require 30 minutes. The unit can also be used to pasteurize AIDS-infected breast milk, cook food or sterilize surgical instruments.

OPV Personal Water Cleaner: Water, water everywhere
The Organic Molecular Photovoltaic (OPV) Personal Water Cleaner, invented in Croatia, is designed for regions beset by monsoons or frequent flooding. In a crisis such as we saw in New Orleans the OPV can provide a family with enough potable water to survive until the waters recede or help arrives.

The device looks like an old-fashioned canteen, consisting of a “bellows” and an internal filtration system. Like the LifeStraw, the OPV relies on the force of suction to set the purifying process in motion. When the user applies pressure to the bellows and sucks on the protruding pipe, the device releases potable water. The whole unit can be easily carried.

More information: www.INDEX2005.dk; www.vestergaard-frandsen.com, www.kentlaursen.dk, www.parabureau.com

Solution News Source

Water of life

Three simple inventions bring clean water to the poorest corners of the planet


Andi McDaniel | November 2005 issue

Throughout wide stretches of the developing world, clean water can’t be taken for granted. Too often, it’s the source of deadly bacterial diseases like typhoid, cholera, and e. coli contamination. An estimated 600 people die every day due to unsafe drinking water.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. The Western world not only has sophisticated filtration for its urban drinking water but plenty of other gadgets to ensure water quality, from Brita purifiers in the kitchen to backcountry water filters used by backpackers. Inventions like these could be used in the developing world if only they were cheap, durable, and easy to distribute.

Those are the exactly qualities that INDEX—a Copenhagen-based international network of designers, organizations, and institutions—was seeking this year as part of their “Design to Improve Life” awards event (www.index2005.dk) held every four years. Here are three affordable low-tech water purifying systems that show promise for developing nations that were entered in the competition.

LifeStraw: It sucks—and that’s good
At 2 dollar U.S., LifeStraw is unusually affordable. Modeled after the simple drinking straw we all know, it has the advantage of being small (25 cm long or 10 inches) and easy to use. And since it has no moving parts, there’s no need for electricity or fuel.

Originally designed by Torben Vestergaard Frandsen of Denmark, the LifeStraw relies on suction to force water through textile filters, which catch sediment. The water is then exposed to bacteria-killing agents like iodine and sent through active carbon, which catches all remaining parasites. One LifeStraw can purifiy 700 litres, the personal water supply of one person for a year.

Solar Pasteurization Unit: Letting the sun do the work
In areas with a contaminated water supply, residents are often told to boil their water. But with limited access to wood or other fuels, that’s not always feasible. Luckily, the sun’s rays are limitless.

Developed in Denmark, the Solar Pasteurization Unit looks like a slide projector, tilted to reflect sunlight onto a black cylinder containing a 1.5 litre bottle, which heats up to over 100 degrees Celsius. To kill all pathogenic bacteria, the first batch of water requires one and a half hours; consecutive batches require 30 minutes. The unit can also be used to pasteurize AIDS-infected breast milk, cook food or sterilize surgical instruments.

OPV Personal Water Cleaner: Water, water everywhere
The Organic Molecular Photovoltaic (OPV) Personal Water Cleaner, invented in Croatia, is designed for regions beset by monsoons or frequent flooding. In a crisis such as we saw in New Orleans the OPV can provide a family with enough potable water to survive until the waters recede or help arrives.

The device looks like an old-fashioned canteen, consisting of a “bellows” and an internal filtration system. Like the LifeStraw, the OPV relies on the force of suction to set the purifying process in motion. When the user applies pressure to the bellows and sucks on the protruding pipe, the device releases potable water. The whole unit can be easily carried.

More information: www.INDEX2005.dk; www.vestergaard-frandsen.com, www.kentlaursen.dk, www.parabureau.com

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