SEATTLE — It is without contention that there is still a huge demand for safe water in developing countries.
Problems with water in developing countries are not simply about accessibility but sanitation.
Globally, at least 1.8 billion people use a drinking water source contaminated with feces.
The overall goal to eliminate this problem would be to install systems of piped, clean and sterile water. However, such a goal is expensive, requires a huge amount of labor and will take a number of years achieve. The implementation of centralized systems requires skilled personnel for installation and further trained personnel for continuous maintenance and management.
Furthermore, access to more prevalent water sources will depend on the geography, climate and political stability of an area. For example, conflict prone zones tend to have little infrastructure and therefore inadequate water services. While the improvement of infrastructure and long-term aid is under way, addressing the immediate needs of those who die from unsanitary water requires cheap and effective solutions.
Decentralized or point-of-use water collection and treatment systems while short term, meet the basic need for safe drinking water. Approaches such as boiling water destroy all water pathogens. However, its cost-effectiveness and sustainability are dependent on heating method and fuel availability.
One of the most promising and accessible decentralized technologies is chlorination. Chlorine dosing for safe drinking water is by no means a modern discovery. However, a British student, James Bartlett, was intent on tackling the problems of costly equipment and inexact mixing.
Bartlett and his peers strived to create a product that was accurate, reliable and low-cost. Bartlett also aimed to ensure that his product could be produced in the country that would use it. Bartlett designed a chlorination unit that could be manufactured for less than three dollars.
Chlorination not only effectively removes bacteria and potential viruses, but it also keeps water sanitized for 24 hours after the initial disinfection. Therefore, water is not susceptible to re-infection if kept or drank from an unsanitary container.
BlueDrop, the name of Bartlett’s chlorination unit, works by employing the Venturi effect; a process that involves fluid passing through a constricted section. Bartlett designed the unit so water would pass through the choke of a tube taking in chlorine and killing bacteria and viruses commonly found in dirty water.
With chlorination devices such as Bartlett’s, worldwide access to clean drinking water sources is realizable. Since 1990, 2.6 billion people have gained access to an improved drinking water source. However, 663 million people still rely on unimproved sources.
Chlorination devices as little as three dollars have the potential to prevent 502,000 diarrheal deaths each year and stop the transmission of cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio transmitted from contaminated water. For a ‘short term’ solution this simple technology may be the rapid global health improvement this decade needs.
– Emma Royce