The latest generation of solar-powered water purifiers is providing energy, Wi-Fi connectivity and even jobs to rural, disadvantaged communities.
The latest purification tech
A staggering 663 million people, a tenth of the world’s population, lack access to clean, safe drinking water. This is despite the fact that the technology is readily available to make drinking water safe.
Advanced solar-powered and ultraviolet technologies are being combined in order to develop water purification machines that can be installed in communities lacking access to clean water.
As they are solar-powered, the water purifiers require no external power source or link to the grid. The ultraviolet technology, meanwhile, is involved either as part of the purification process, or to prevent bacteria from proliferating in the purified water during storage.
Most importantly, the process doesn’t require the use of any harmful chemicals that could contaminate the water further.
An internet of vital things
The Watly is a solar-powered water purification device that uses UV lamps to keep water pure.
As well as water, the latest version of the Watly provides communities with energy and uses Wi-Fi to maintain a link with a central platform, which monitors each Watly in real-time.  The device’s Wi-Fi connectivity enables it to report any mechanical or software issues and, when two or more Watlys are connected, create a network where users can share information and data.
In the case of an issue, the central platform can reboot the Watly, or instruct a field technician on how to perform the required maintenance.
Portability and potability
Many of the latest water purification devices being produced for use in rural areas are also portable.
Water One’s Solar Wagon, for example, can be pulled by hand to the closest water source and filled up with the flick of a switch. Women and children currently spend 125 million hours a day collecting water, so a portable purification device that guarantees potable (or drinkable) water would have a huge impact in these communities.
Watersprint’s D4Field, meanwhile, has been chosen by the UN to distribute to villages and towns in Bangladesh, where its solar panels can help provide water to surrounding communities.
Like the Watly the D4Field has full Wi-Fi connectivity, but what makes it really stand out is the way Watersprint is integrating it into communities.
Rather than delivering the machines to Bangladeshis and then just letting them get on with it, Watersprint has created a payment model, so that systems are managed by local suppliers who sell water for a small fee, creating jobs and helping the local economy.
Although the technology is readily available, the cost of creating water purification devices is still a significant hurdle – the Solar Wagon, for example, costs $12,000 (£9,200). Currently, designers need crowdfunding campaigns and government backing to send purifiers where they’re needed, but by going beyond clean water – creating networks, energy and jobs – solar-powered purifiers pay for themselves many times over.
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