Clean, safe drinking water is scarce. To the extent that today, over 1 billion of the world’s population do not have access to it. And yet, we take it for granted, waste it and ironically, pay to drink it from plastic bottles – which are probably the biggest reason for today’s environmental crisis.
With so many people deprived of one of the very basics of life that the other half of the world take for granted, a lot of organizations and individuals alike have taken it upon them to come up with innovative solutions for said crisis. These developments can be broadly divided into 2 categories – research that goes into treating water to be safe for drinking, and research that goes into unearthing new sources of water. We’ve come across two such great initiatives from both ends of the spectrum for this piece!
Creating Water Out of Thin Air!
Scientists from MIT and University of California at Berkeley have developed a solar-powered device that can harvest water out of the air, with humidity as low as 20%!
The device basically combines zirconium and adipic acid to form a metal-organic framework that can capture water molecules from the air. The device then uses solar energy to condense these molecules into entirely safe, drinkable water. At current capacity, this tissue-box-sized device is able to harvest around 2.8 liters of water in 12 hours.
Albeit being extremely expensive for commercialization right now, the fact that is truly intriguing about this device is the potential it holds – this technique, if scaled up, could take water off the grid; meaning, remote and inaccessible regions of the world would become capable of producing their own drinkable water without the need for expensive pipes, filtration facilities, or power.
The possibilities have been compared to how wireless mobile phones revolutionized the communication industry as opposed to wired telephones, although, the possibility of water being this accessible would prove to be even bigger in this case.
Making do with the Resources at Hand...
While institutes like MIT are busy looking into revolutionary technology that could potentially change the world, there are also people who are working at the very forefront of this crisis – trying to incite immediate action using tools and methods at hand.
One such initiative being run by the Mountain Safety Research based in Seattle is the campaign for The MSR SE200™ Community Chlorine Maker on Indiegogo – a kit that allows anyone and everyone to make their own chlorine and disinfect their water, making it safe to drink and use otherwise, within minutes.
The Community Chlorine Maker is an unbelievably simple device works through 3 steps: A solution of salt and water is made and added to the chlorine maker device. The device is then powered using a 12V battery – using this power, it begins an electrolysis process that produces chlorine within just 5 minutes. At current capacity, the amount of chlorine created in 5 minutes can be used to disinfect up to 200 liters of water.
However, the Chlorine Making Kit is not the focus of the campaign. The primary aim is to empower and educate people to adopt self-sufficient methods of tackling their problems. MSR is partnered with World Vision and Operation Blessing for this project, who are ready and able to send 2500 kits to low-resource communities in Africa, where 500,000 people would get access to clean drinking water as a result.
While the first technique is something that we might be looking at as being feasible in maybe 5-10 years, at the moment, developments like the Chlorine Maker are the ones that are driving change right now, in the simplest and most sustainable ways possible – and these projects deserve all the support they can get.
The rationale behind putting these two projects under one heading is to highlight the fact that a lot is being done around the world to help the underprivileged – from high-tech research and development to on-field immediate solutions. It is important for everyone to come together and support these causes, in whatever small way possible.