Swiss researchers have developed a device that uses the sun’s energy to disinfect water – a system that has great potential for developing countries.

The SwissWaterKiosk is developed by a team from the Technical University of Rapperswil and is currently valued in Bangladesh, Mozambique and Tanzania. Nearly 900 million people worldwide have no access to drinking water, according to the UN.

“The concept of SwissWaterKiosk is the use of sustainable technologies for water disinfection. Our main goal is to provide access to safe drinking water to people who lack it,” says Lars Konersmann,  swissinfo.ch project leader.

The system uses solar thermal technology to heat water. Researchers have shown that water must be heated to 100 degrees Celsius to kill all pathogens, Konersmann said.

In fact, 75 ° C for five minutes are enough to purify the liquid. But the model developed by the Swiss opt for safety and therefore recommends heating water to 80 ° C. “The lower the temperature, we can be more efficient and produce more drinking water with the same investment or material,” said Konersmann.

The system is 500 liters of potable water per day with an initial outlay of $ 500 (SFr. 482) per device, which scientists consider a price similar to other systems.

The pavilion is designed for use at the community level rather than at home, a local businessman in charge of production and distribution of water. The liquid can be sold at low cost as a service to the community and distributed free of charge, for example in schools and hospitals.

Konersmann said that the main advantage compared to other technologies is that the flag is easily maintained and operates efficiently, which is important for the application of technology to developing countries. “Since the water treatment process is the same as boiling it, the technology is also easily understood and well accepted,” he adds.

The second phase of the pilot, after a first phase to prove the technology, is the assessment of social aspects, especially the different models of operation. The tests were run in three countries until the end of this year.

The project in Bangladesh, based in Dhaka, has shown that technology is not ideal for urban areas, where there are large systems of water treatment plants that are more economical and efficient. However, there has been positive feedback from rural and semi-urban areas of Africa.

Schools and other spaces

The Swiss NGO Helvetas runs two small pilot projects in northern Mozambique, where for years actively involved in the issue of access to water and sanitation. In March, five systems installed.

“The first systems operating in schools and we will install others to test them in different contexts, such as health centers, more schools, also in commercial establishments such as restaurants, which are interested in testing them,” says a swissinfo.ch Kaspar Grossenbacher , Helvetas program coordinator in Mozambique.

“But it’s still early,” stresses Grossenbacher. “At first the students were a bit reluctant to use the flag, but now they take drinking water from there.”

There were some problems: the water was a bit hot and the system was broken in the few days that has clouded the region as the rainy season, said the expert. “But I still used and are interested in increasing quantities,” he adds.

Access to safe water

The situation of access to water in this region of Mozambique – one of the world’s poorest countries – is critical, Grossenbacher said. Wells are the usual solution.

Helvetas not contemplate that the flag is to provide access to safe drinking water to all rural communities, as these requirements are very broad. The organization believes that the system is ideal for institutions which lack safe drinking water.

“It is a specific solution we are testing its use in specific institutions,” says Grossenbacher.

One idea would be to place the flag of the water in the most densely populated areas, where people come to buy drinking water to maintain minimum health and welfare. This is something that should be tested as well as its new concept, says Grossenbacher.

Konersmann notes that the goal is to complete the second phase of the pilot project in three countries with some success stories, with a view to expand the system in these countries and others. “Clean water is a basic need of every human being,” he said. “It’s the cornerstone of the quality of life.”

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