As of 2013, around 738 million people across the world do not have access to clean drinking water. Of these people, an approximate eight million die as a consequence of this inaccessibility.
Water is the paramount need for all human beings. Sanitation of this water is vital for preventing many water-borne diseases, which can be potentially fatal. Despite the development of new methodologies to sanitize water, the process of chlorination remains unparalleled in its prevalence and efficiency.
The process of chlorination, as the name suggests, used chlorine gas or bleach to purify water. Chlorine gas is a highly toxic gas, and an effective antimicrobial agent. Chlorine also remains in water through longer periods of time than its alternatives. This reduces the costs of repeated purifications.
Despite these advantages that put chlorination far ahead of its counterpart purification methods, it is still difficult to successfully utilize in developing countries. Chorine gas and its derivatives- such as bleach- are highly reactive, and can be dangerous in excessive quantities. The chlorine gas is sold compressed in cylinders, and its pressure requirements change in accordance with the water source to be chlorinated. Hydraulic equipment necessary for safe chlorination is not always accessible in remote areas.
These safety considerations pose a dilemma for the safe sanitation of drinking water. Recently, Mountain Safety Research(MSR), an outdoor gear manufacturer, collaborated with an NGO to release an innovative solution to the problem.
Their device- smart electro chlorinator or SE200- uses saltwater and a car battery to produce a carefully-calculated amount of chlorine gas. It consists of a canister that attaches to a battery through jumper cables. The canister is filled with salt solution. The dissolved salt is dissociated into ionic chloride ions.
The ions are converted into bleach electrochemically. The hydrogen gas produced from the battery reacts with the chloride ions to form perchlorate, or bleach. The added advantage of the device is in its specificity. It is designed to calculate and produce specific amount of chlorine per gallon of water. This maintains the concentration of chlorine in water at a constant level, and within safe ranges.
The chlorinator is lightweight and portable, which is important in smaller remote areas. It can purify up to twenty liters in a meager five minute interval. The device is also notably energy efficient: a twelve volt battery can be used to generate enough chlorine to purify 400,000 liters of water.
The device has so far been tested successfully in field operations in Kenya, Mali, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and Thailand. It is especially noted for its feasibility in small population communities, where large-scale sanitation does not reach and household purification is a hassle. The chlorination is relatively inexpensive as well: at around two hundred dollars, it can provide a clean supply of water for two hundred people for a period of five years.
As with any new technology, there are issues with this device as well. As it is designed for use in remote areas, it is questionable as to how technical issues might be dealt with. Any of the maintenance issues needing to be fixed can seriously jeopardize a steady supply of clean water. Moreover, in spite of pictorial instructions, there is always the danger for misuse. These are some of the issues that need to be fine-tuned for the chlorinator’s effective usage.
Despite the issues that need to be resolved, the chlorinator is undoubtedly an innovative initiative in the provision of clean drinking water to each and every human being in the world.
– Atifah Safi