Following this week's announcement of a groundbreaking partnership between British Gas and Thames Water, today the newsroom looks at another aqua-innovation: one that could have a truly global impact.
Forget this summer's forecasted UK water shortages, many people living in the developing world today have to survive with so little water that things that we see as basic necessities – such as daily showers – have to be foregone for the sake of survival. In many cases too, the uncleanliness of the water and a lack of hygienic bathing facilities can be a major factor in the spread of disease. However, this could soon start to change thanks to a beautifully simple new solar shower solution.
Solar showers, of course, aren't a new concept. Many of us have been investing in them for use during summer music festivals and camping holidays for many years now. But even the ostensibly cheaper models are made of materials that are difficult to source and expensive to buy in the developing world. This problem was the inspiration for Irish designer Michael Kilbane's new design.
Drawing on resources that are readily available and easily affordable in the developing world, Kilbane has developed an admirably low-tech prototype for an inexpensive solar-heated shower. The unit is constructed using a 5-gallon water jug, which is painted black, a rope, a pulley and shower tray or basin.
The heating process is simple: the black colouring of the water container helps to heat the water within it. The shower 'head' is simply made up of a series of 2mm holes that have been punched into the bottom of the jug, while a pressure release valve controls the water flow above this, with the water holes small enough that no water will leak out providing the valve is shut.
The problem with many solar showers, you might point out, is that they don't last that long. However, here again Kilbane seems to have provided a worthy solution. With the valve open, the shower releases water at a rate of 1.4l per minute, enabling a 16-minute solar-heated shower – easily long enough for a song or two!
Hopefully this ingenious new shower solution can start to turn the tide for people suffering in the developing world. If you've heard of any game-changing new concepts that you think people should no about, then join the conversation at facebook.com/britishgas.