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The lack of access to potable water is one of the biggest issues currently impacting the developing world. Over 400 million Africans now live in water-scarce areas and when they do have access to water supplies, it is usually unsafe to drink. As a result, almost half of the world’s poorest people suffer from waterborne diseases, and over 6,000 – primarily children – die each day from consuming unsafe water.
Though issues about clean drinking water are receiving more attention from NGOs and wealthy countries, many in the world still deal with the dire consequences of this problem daily. Looking to improve the living conditions of these populations, entrepreneurs along with governments and NGOs are working on ways to give them better access to safe drinking water. By substituting traditional techniques (such as boiling the water or using ceramic filters which don’t typically eliminate all microbes or contaminants) with cutting-edge technological solutions, these organizations are hoping to transform undrinkable water into a safe and reliable supply for daily needs.
One of these initiatives is the LifeStraw. Only ten inches long and one inch in diameter, this self-contained plastic pipe filter only costs a few dollars to produce and could become one of the greatest lifesavers in history. Designed to filter 1,000 liters (264 gallons) of water over its lifetime, the device has been tested with tap, turbid and saline water and proven effective against common waterborne bacteria such as salmonella, diphtheria and cholera. The LifeStraw was designed with special emphasis to avoid any moving parts, as a sealed unit with no replaceable spare parts, and without the use of electricity. To start the filtering, all a user has to do is start sucking. Designed to save lives, cheap to manufacture and purchase, this device should soon be found in many hands.
Another great device has been designed by the Italian Gabriele Diamanti, what he calls the Eliodomestico. Using the sun as a heat source to vaporize unpurified water, the steam is then collected and condensed into potable water. It can even be used with salt water, effectively making it a solar “desalinator.”With a healthy dose of the sun’s rays, it can produce up to five liters of water a day while only costing about $50 to make.
These great initiatives will hopefully gain visibility and be rolled out soon. These two products are a great example of how technology can, once again, help improve living conditions and tackle one of the world’s most important issues.
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