Australia researchers to provide fresh drinking water in Rajasthan

By: | Published: October 3, 2017 3:38 PM

Researchers at University of Adelaide are planning to provide fresh drinking water in the desert state of Rajasthan using simple and low-cost water purification kits.

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Researchers at University of Adelaide are planning to provide fresh drinking water in the desert state of Rajasthan using simple and low-cost water purification kits. Rajasthan is a region of 79.79 million of people and is the sister state of South Australia. Water management significantly limits it’s development and is a critical requirement for future growth. The self-assembly kits make use of sunlight and gravity, some clever design and basic materials to produce up to 10 litres/day of safe drinking water. The university today launched its first official crowdfunding project to fund the research, which will be needed to design and produce the kits, an official statement said here. The university aims to raise 30,000 Australian dollars to produce 1000 kits.

A donation of 30 dollars will provide one water purification kit to a family in Rajasthan, which can convert up to 10 litres of contaminated water into fresh drinking and cooking water per hour. It has been estimated that 680 million people around the world do not have access to fresh drinking water, and approximately 1.5 million people, predominantly children, die from drinking contaminated water every year, project leader Cris Birzer, Senior Lecturer in University’s School of Mechanical Engineering and Director of theHumanitarian and Development Solutions Initiative at the University, said. “We want to build on the very simple water treatment kits we developed for use in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, which allow people to make their own water purifiers from materials readily to hand,” Birzer said.

“These kits use sunlight to kill pathogens, making the water safe to drink. But in India, the water also contains heavy-metal contaminants and we need to do some onsite pathogen, heavy metal and other toxin assessments to be able to modify the kits for Rajasthan,” Birzer said. The original water purification kits were developed by Birzer, his colleagues and students using glass tubing, metallised plastic and sunlight. The system makes use of UVA radiation direct from the sunlight to kill pathogens in the water. A team of researchers, including engineers, microbiologists and anthropologists, will visit Rajasthan to engage with local communities and conduct assessments on local water quality, manufacturing capabilities and supply-chains before returning to Adelaide to develop and implement a customised solution.

“Once we know exactly what heavy metals and other contaminants are present, we’ll be able to modify the kit design with, for example, sand filters to remove other contaminants,” Birzer said. For instance, the local Indian plant Moringa can be used to remove arsenic from contaminated water and could be mixed into a sand filter as a simple addition to the system. “Once we’ve designed the kits, they will be produced in Rajasthan and distributed to the community through local partners,” he said. “The United Nations has explicitly stated that water is a human right. Here at the University of Adelaide we’re trying to make sure those rights are fulfilled, and we want you to help us.”

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