Low Tech to High Concept: 3 Ideas for Water in Africa

Most of us don’t think much about taking a bath, washing the car or setting up a sprinkler to water the lawn. But in many parts of Africa, there’s so little safe, fresh water to drink, millions of people die from water-related disease every year. Drought, pollution, mismanagement and regional conflicts have compounded scarce availability, but ingenuity – often using renewable energy and eco-friendly materials – could make a big impact on many lives.
These three water projects, from the most basic sand filter to vapor-harvesting towers, make existing water sources cleaner and provide additional water in surprising new ways.

Using Dirt to Purify Water in Cameroon

(images via: inhabitat)

Low-tech, effective and easy to replicate, bio sand filters are already saving lives thanks to the Life and Water Development Group Cameroon (LWDGC), with the help of Engineers Without Borders USA. The team constructed and installed these filters in LWDGC founder Peter Njodzeka’s home village of Nkuv.

Based on the seemingly dubious concept that “everything that will filter the water is already in the water”, the bio sand filters consist of several layers of sand and gravel within an iron mold on a concrete base. Water is poured through these materials, and within three weeks a biolayer forms, which removes 99 percent of the bacteria from the water. When contaminated water passes through this layer of ‘good bacteria’ and then through the sand and gravel, at a rate of about one liter per minute, it is free of disease and safe to drink.

Solarball Purifies Water with the Sun

(images via: physorg)

It looks like a hamster ball or a kid’s toy, but the ‘Solarball’ by Jonathon Liow can produce three liters of clean water per day with nothing but dirty, contaminated water and sunlight. Named as a finalist in the 2011 Australian Design Awards, the Solarball uses direct sunlight to cause the dirty water to evaporate and condense, pulling the purified water into a separate compartment and leaving the dirt and contaminants behind. There spherical design captures light and heat from all 360 degrees.

While at this stage the concept only produces three liters of water, which is well below the minimum of ten liters required per day for each person, it could be the beginning of an even bigger idea with far-reaching benefits.

The Water Vapor Project: Large Scale Dew Collectors

(images via: yanko design)

More ambitious and highly conceptual than the previous two ideas, the Water Vapor Project aims to make Africa’s deserts more viable for agriculture. While 57% of the continent’s inhabitants are involved in some form of agriculture, only 10% of the land is truly suitable for such a purpose. Using the basic principles of water vapor, these towers pull in cooler air close to the surface of the earth and sends it through a ‘vortex tube’ where it is met by air that has been heated by the sun and then pumped back outside, increasing humidity levels.

While perhaps not viable for the most arid desert regions where humidity in the air is hard to come by, such an idea could extend the range of the few naturally water-rich areas that already exist.

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