PotaVida and the Smart Solar Purifier

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SEATTLE — PotaVida has created an easy and affordable way to create clean drinking water using solar power. It’s called the Smart Solar Purifier. It is a 10-liter bag with a data tracking UV dosage indicator that shows when the water has been disinfected by sunlight.

The bag costs $10, has a shelf life of five years and a usage life of one, making it ideal for disaster relief and refugee settings. PotaVida is working with World Concern to distribute these purifiers to the areas that need them most.

It’s all sunshine and clean water. This indicator is user-friendly and has a very simple process. One begins by filling the bag with clear water, placing the bag and contents in the sun and pressing the start button. When the water is safe to drink, a green LED light will flash on the indicator.

In sunny conditions, one batch of water is ready after about five hours. However, in intermittent sun it can take up to two days. PotaVida uses solar disinfection, or SODIS, to eliminate the need to replace filters or the use of harsh chemicals, like chlorine, as a disinfectant. It’s just a matter of time and sunshine.SODIS or solar water disinfection uses the power of sunlight to destroy pathogens living in the water that causes illnesses.

SODIS uses the power of sunlight to destroy pathogens living in the water that cause illnesses. SODIS works because of two things: the first is the radiation present in the spectrum of UV sunlight hitting the bag, and the second is increased water temperature. Essentially, this process is the same as boiling water to kill dangerous pathogens, except at a much slower pace. This method allows for water treatment even when boiling is not an option.

As far as data tracking, PotaVida sent 750 purifiers to 375 households in Haiti in May of 2016. PotaVida did not only want to help provide clean water, but the company also wanted to follow its progress in a way that was more accurate that weekly usage questionnaires. PotaVida created a device that stores usage data and, like a Fitbit, it can sync with a smartphone and the data can be viewed immediately, offering past usages as well as current status. This information can also be sent to the cloud for further analysis.

The information is GPS-tagged and stored on phones used by field staff to monitor the success or failure of the purifiers. Based on this information, PotaVida was able to graph its success. Compared to other water purifying options available, PotaVida Smart Solar Purifier had a monthly active usage rate of 60 percent in sites with the tech, versus the five to 25 percent of other purifiers. Charlie Matlack, CEO and co-founder of PotaVida said that “most water purification devices distributed in disaster relief have terrible, low usage rates.” Five percent seems to be the norm for methods like chlorine tablets.

PotaVida is providing simple, user-friendly and effective water treatment to those in disaster-stricken areas and refugee camps. By tracking its own data, the company can see the effect of each usage in the communities that need help.

Karyn Adams

Photo: Flickr

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About Author

Karyn Adams

Karyn lives in Erie, Pennsylvania. She studied Communications, Creative Writing and Spanish Language at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio. Karyn studied abroad in Melbourne, Australia where she boxed with a kangaroo (and lost). After graduation she moved to Madrid, Spain and taught English in a primary school.

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