Nearly everyone living in the United States has access to clean drinking water, so the issue doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. When you look at the whole planet, though, you discover a water crisis that affects about 603 million people.
As the water crisis becomes more widespread, some scientists have devoted themselves to created low-cost technologies that provide clean drinking water to people who live in developing nations. These three concepts offer the most hope for people without access to clean water.
Solar stills tackle many of the problems that make water unhealthy. They kill bacteria and parasites while also removing salt and unwanted chemicals. Anyone living along a coast, therefore, can use a solar still to turn salty water into drinking water.
Building a solar still requires few materials. You start by building a container with a clear top. After filling it with water, the sun causes the water to evaporate and collect on the clear surface. By tilting the surface and placing a hose at the lowest point, you send the water to a harvest container. It takes time for this process to work, but it’s one of the most inexpensive ways to make salty water drinkable.
Researchers at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore developed a water filtration membrane made from titanium dioxide nanoparticles. This type of membrane offers several advantages over the polymer-based membranes that most people use. For instance, the new membrane doesn’t get clogged as easily as the polymer versions. The nanoparticles are also more effective at killing bacteria and breaking down organic compounds that can make people sick.
The titanium dioxide nanoparticle membrane isn’t intended for families or individuals. Instead, it provides a solution to communities willing to invest in the new technology. An industrial paper mill operating in Guangzhou expects to save about $2.37 million over the next five years by using the nanotechnology.
Activated charcoal has the ability to absorb a wide range of dangerous pollutants that can make water undrinkable. If you have a water purifier in your home, it probably uses an activated charcoal filter.
LifeStraw uses activated charcoal and a purification membrane to give individuals access to clean water. LifeStraw is a two-ounce plastic straw that hands around your neck. When you need a drink, you just find the nearest source of water and take a sip through the straw. Each straw can purify up to 1,000 liters of water.
LifeStraw has become a popular water purification option for backpackers who don’t want to carry water with them. For each LifeStraw that you purchase, the company will provide one year of clean drinking water to a child living in a developing country.
Solving the water crisis will require a hefty investment. Many of today’s purification technologies cost so little to make and use, though, that the solution seems closer than ever. As these technologies grow, more people around the world will have access to the clean water they need to live fulfilling lives.
Image via Flickr by Didriks