Water is one of the most important ingredients that supports life on Earth. India, with over 1.3 billion population and still counting more, could soon face the shortage of drinking water. Dependent largely on rain water as a replenishing source, it will soon fall short to meet the demands of the rising population. Many people in rural villages are still largely dependent on ground water and most of them are contaminated in nature. Amos Winter, a Mechanical Engineer by profession, and Natasha Wright, a fellow of MIT Tata Centre for Technology and Design has joined hands with Jain Irrigation Systems in Jalgaon which aims in providing cheap and clean water to the rural people of India.
They have conducted surveys which pointed out that apart from the impurities, most of the people were dissatisfied with the taste and the salinity of the drinking water. They also studied the existing purification system and found out that most of the villagers don’t use filters for water purification. World Health Organization recommends drinking water with a salinity level below 660 ppm (parts per million), however, thousands of people in villages consume water with a salinity level above 1200 ppm. As a result, people in villages often suffer from stomach and kidney disorders.
Researchers, thus, have tried to establish a solar-powered desalination system that can provide clean water at a cheaper rate in comparison to the cost suffered in already established RO purification procedure. RO purification systems aren’t only expensive, but provides only 70% of desalinated water, resulting a 30% to be considered as a waste. Winter and Wright’s system not only can recycle water using solar energy, but can also provide bacteria free-desalinated drinking water. Their system provides upto 90% of desalinated water with only 10% to be wasted.
They have incorporated the PV-EDR technology-also known as Photovoltaic based Electro-dialysis reversal method. It uses the cation-anion exchange method in order to separate the salt from the water and pump out the remaining concentrated salt solution in an evaporation pond. Their system also utilises the UV light technology to kill bacteria, germs and other biological contaminants present in the water.
Winter and his team have successfully tested their first prototype and are aiming at improving the performance of the system. Due to its dependency on solar power, they are trying to improve their design to provide a better efficiency. Organizations like UNICEF and USAID has also financially supported this project. The project has a very good potential and if implemented successfully, it will help the government and also the rural people to avail cheap and clean drinking water.