According to UNICEF, more than 10% of the world’s population suffers from a lack of access to clean drinking water. Children are at far greater risk than adults; every day, “nearly 4,000 children die from unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation facilities.” To help alleviate this travesty, engineers around the world are using their ingenuity to invent amazing new technologies which help conserve clean drinking water. Whether through finding ways to reuse dirty water to conserve what can be drunk, or by purifying unclean water (or sometimes both!), new ideas can help to dramatically reduce these unnecessary deaths. Here are five great demonstrations of how much technology can help:
The LifeStraw is a truly ingenious innovation. The beauty is in its simplicity of use; one needs simply to drink through the device, just like a straw. A built-in filtration system prevents contaminants from reaching the user’s lips, so nearly any water source can be treated as drinkable if there is a LifeStraw around. After the user has finished drinking, he or she blows back through the LifeStraw to clear out anything remaining in the filter, and then saves it for another time. An excellent combination of reusability, portability, and ease of use, the LifeStraw has already saved countless people from preventable deaths.
The +Pool is almost exactly what it sounds like—a pool shaped like a plus sign. What’s unique about this pool is that it floats on a river, filling itself with natural water put through a filter. When children want to play, there can often be a lack of supervision; unknowing children may accidentally put themselves in a dangerous situation. Earnest kids can find themselves falling ill because they went for a swim in unsafe water—perhaps they even ingested some accidentally. The +Pool provides a safe, reliable atmosphere for kids to have fun, or for adults to practice swimming laps.
Rainwater harvesting is a seemingly obvious technique for collecting water. However, what ends up being stored is not always clean; contaminants can find their way into a water supply in numerous ways. Fortunately, this “gray” water can be used for all sorts of other purposes—hand washing (with soap!), plant watering, and many others. If treated with a filter, the water can be drunk as well. By using harvested rainwater for non-drinking purposes, precious clean water can be conserved so that more people can refresh themselves.
Toilet Tank Sinks
If we think about the water we use to flush our toilets, it doesn’t make much sense that we waste clean, drinkable water on what we excrete. That’s why some toilets are now being constructed with a sink above the tank. After the user has finished his or her business, they wash their hands using the built-in sink, and the water that goes into the sink’s drain comes down into the toilet tank to be used for flushing. This technique can drastically reduce the amount of water a household uses, and so those with limited access to clean water can save more for sustenance.
Rolling Water Drums
This deceptively simply innovation changes the way water is brought from its collection site back to people’s homes. Containers can be too heavy for children to carry, and men can often be too busy with work to take the long treks to clean water sources. By putting the water in a cylindrical drum with a hole through the middle, it can be rolled along the path much more easily than it could be carried. It is possible to thread a rope or a log through the opening, enabling people to push or pull the container, allowing its rolling to alleviate some of the hard work. By using a creatively designed container, those without easy access to clean water can get what they need faster, more safely, and more reliably.
– Jake Simon
Sources: Halogen TV, Sustentator