Water sea

By Lee King, QuenchSea

Water is rapidly becoming the world most contested resource. Access to clean fresh drinking water is critical to health and survival, and yet two thirds of the world’s population live in areas with water scarcity.

In a time when maintaining personal hygiene is more important than ever, let’s look at the businesses and technologies that are leading in the fight against the global water crisis:

Technology 1: Solar Powered Filtration

In the US, water filtration systems account for 6% of nationwide electricity use.  Solar powered filtration is one technology that removes or reduces the need for electricity therefore minimising further environmental impact.

One business leading solar powered filtration is Swedish company Solvatten. Their combined portable water treatment and water heater system has been designed for off-grid households in the developing world. Each unit contains two five-litre containers, which are filled through a 35micron filter. Placed in direct sunlight, the unit simultaneously heats the water and exposes it to ultraviolet radiation. The combination of heat and UV light is a highly effective means of purifying water and, depending on conditions, the water will be free of pathogenic material in 2-6 hours.

Clean, hot water – using just the power of the sun.

Technology 2: Desalination

30% of the world’s population live near the coast yet many people don’t have access to clean, drinking water. Desalination of sea water offers a solution for coastal regions. However, large desalination plants can be polluting and damaging to local environments.

QuenchSea, developed by Hydro Wind Energy is the world’s first low cost portable desalination device that allows individuals to desalinate sea water for personal use. The size of a conventional iron, and with manual power alone,  it can produce 300ml of water in six to nine minutes, depending on the feedwater quality.

As well as appealing to sailors, campers and hikers, QuenchSea is playing a significant humanitarian role.  Hydro Wind Energy has pledged to donate 100 million units over the next seven years and has partnered with NGOs such as Project Maji and Rapid Response to increase access to freshwater for those in need.

Technology 3: Mechanical Freshwater Filtration

Inland, freshwater filtration systems can be used to provide quick access to water. They use a physical barrier known as a Hollow-Fibre Membrane which effectively removes microbiological contaminants from the water.

LifeStraw is a portable drinking straw created by Swiss company, Vestergaard. The straws use membrane microfilters which filter the water as it’s drunk. The straw has a 1000 litre lifetime and removes 99.9 percent of bacteria and parasites. The company makes larger units for households and communities. To date, a million+ children in western Kenya have gained access to clean water via LifeStraw.

Technology 4: Fog Collection

Away from the coast, fog collection is a common method of freshwater collection.

Fog harvesters are mesh nets, usually one metre squared, erected perpendicular to the path of the wind. As the wind blows fog through the device, the mesh catches the droplets, and gravity pulls the water down into containers underneath. Generally, fog harvesters collect about three liters a day per square metre of mesh.

FogQuest is a non-profit, registered Canadian charity dedicated to planning and implementing water projects for rural communities in developing countries. They work in, for example, Guatemala, Ethiopia and Chile, where for many people this is their main source of fresh water.

Technology 5: Water Purification Tablets

Compared to the technologies above water purification tablets have been around a long time. But that doesn’t make them any less useful. They are ideal for emergency humanitarian situations, as well as refugee camps and for peacekeeping. They are convenient and low-cost. They work by releasing free chlorine into the water which kills most pathogens. You normally require one tablet per litre of water and need to wait 30 minutes before drinking.

LuminaUltra ran a trial to determine the effectiveness of this popular technology. Water was collected from the Saint John River in New Brunswick and tested three times before treatment and three times at 30 minutes and 1 hour after the tablets were added. The untreated river water averaged 393 pg ATP/mL, standard for surface water but significantly higher than the 10 pg ATP/mL limit for drinking water.

After adding an Aquatab, mixing the sample, and allowing it to take effect for 30 minutes, the results showed a 99% decrease in biological content with the treated water averaging 5 pg ATP/mL, well below the high-risk limit.

After one hour, ATP levels remained stable at 4 pg ATP/mL – impressively close to the 1 pg ATP/mL target for full-scale water treatment plants.

These five technologies differ in their portability, their sustainability, and the water source used. However, each has a contribution to make. Solving the crisis will require a combination of approaches and technologies. Some, such as water purification tablets, are decades old, others such as QuenchSea, are innovative products that have been designed to make a difference and help solve the water crisis we see in the world today.

Lee King About the author

Lee King is founder of Hydro Wind Energy, creators of QuenchSea. Their mission is to make a major contribution to solving the world’s water and energy crisis, through a range of innovative technologies.  www.hw.energy