Portable system provides clean drinking water

Researchers at UWE Bristol have developed a portable and mobile water treatment system capable of delivering clean drinking water at source. 

The development coincides with the announcement today of funding worth £3.3m for designs that can help improve access to water and sanitation in disaster zones.

The UWE system has been developed for use in remote or undeveloped areas of the world to provide clean water for disaster relief and humanitarian emergencies.

‘I am perfectly happy drinking this water’

Prof Darren Reynolds

The research team have pumped water from the pond on the main university campus directly into a treatment system which uses a novel disinfectant and a membrane filtration system. From this, potable water that meets drinking water standards from source, can be produced quickly.

In conventional drinking water treatment systems chlorine is used for disinfection but the chemical can corrode membrane materials, which presents problems for the long-term deployment of portable treatment systems.

This system incorporates a novel disinfectant that has been developed at UWE, along with industry partners Bridge Biotechnology that does not have a corrosive impact on components over time but still kills any bacteria that may be present in the water.

In a statement research leader Prof Darren Reynolds said: ‘The first stage of our project has resulted in the capacity to produce two cubic metres of drinking water in a 12 day period. This may not seem like a huge amount, but put into context, humans need a minimum of two litres of drinking water a day which is less than one cubic metre a year. Key to this project is the novel biocide that we have developed that does not corrode like chlorine.’

The team have been working with industrial partners, Pentair; a supplier of membranes for industrial applications, Portsmouth Aviation; an engineering manufacturing company; and Bridge Biotechnology.

The system being developed by UWE Bristol is currently being fitted into standard 20ft transport containers making each unit easy to transport by road, ship or train. Project partners Portsmouth Aviation have so far attracted orders worth over £1.5m from Eastern Europe.

Prof Reynolds said: ‘Our aim is to manufacture portable systems that can produce two cubic meters of drinking water every hour. This could make a huge difference to the everyday lives of people in remote areas and potentially during environmental disasters.’

In related news, The government is backing a fund aimed at encouraging new ideas that could help save lives in a humanitarian crisis.

The £3.3m fund will support designs that can help improve access to water and sanitation in a disaster zone. Anyone can submit their ideas online and the best solutions will be given $20,000 (£12,130) to turn their idea into a reality.

Diseases caused by dirty water and poor sanitation account for 80 per cent of deaths in children under two during humanitarian emergencies.

The HIF initiative, managed by Enhancing Learning and Research for Humanitarian Assistance (ELHRA), will initially focus on two challenges: the design of a lighting system for individual latrines that is cheap, sustainable and difficult to steal or vandalise; and the design of a new incinerator, compactor or recycling method that is rapidly deployable, cost-effective and easy to use.

The Managing Solid Waste challenge is due to launch later in January, 2014. More information can be found her