Water Access to Millions
Access to clean drinking water is a growing problem. There are 2.3 billion people around the world facing water availability issues every day. Problems come from rising global drought patterns, lack of access to groundwater, water contamination, and waterborne illness. Almost a third of the global population does not have access to clean drinking water. A possible solution, called the Waterseer Project, may be hitting the market in late spring 2017. The Waterseer Project aims to increase access to water, as well as to treat the water through a distillation process.

So how does this Waterseer device actually work? There is no use of power or chemicals involved in the extraction of water from the air. A compact wind turbine directs air into a condensation chamber that is planted six feet below the earth, where temperatures are constant and cooler than above-ground temperatures. This temperature exchange condenses the water molecules into liquid form, and also serves as a distillation process to remove some contaminants.

The Waterseer Project was founded by Ikhlaq Sidhu in 2015. Preliminary research was conducted at the Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology in Berkeley, California. They joined forces with the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA), who has been involved in the initial field trials at UC Berkeley and has agreed to additional trial runs in targeted countries where they operate. The project then joined forces with the Jacobs Institute for Design at UC Berkeley, where current developments on the second round of product prototypes are taking place thanks to their successful crowdfunding campaign. After the design phase and lab trial period in the late spring 2017, the prototype will be trialed in different outdoor field locations with the help of the NPCA.

The possible implications of this device are vast and far-reaching, but as with every potential development project, technology is only a part of the solution; policy, politics and management must all be aligned to ensure success.

Joshua Ward

Photo: Flickr

Two Innovative Solutions for Cleaner Water
As recently as 2013, the United Nations reported that 783 million people across the planet do not have access to clean water and another 2.5 billion people have inadequate sanitation. With demand for food predicted to rise 50 percent by 2030, new and innovative solutions for cleaner water are needed more than ever.

One company actively researching solutions for cleaner water is the Austrian solar company, Pumpmakers. This company develops solar powered water pumps for use anywhere in the world via either the DIY Solar Pump or the larger scale PM Solar Pump System. This Solar Pump System has application beyond drinking water for families, enabling water access for agriculture, irrigation, livestock and fish farming.

The DIY pump is capable of pumping 18,000 liters of clean water per day, and the Solar Pump System delivers up to 50,000 liters per hour. Intentionally affordable and easy to use, these pump systems also require minimal maintenance.

The technology is utilized by countries such as Cameroon, where pumps supply the village of Ndoki with clean water for its 5,000 people.

Another, perhaps even more inventive solution for cleaner water comes in the form of the Waterseer pump, capable of cultivating water literally out of thin air.

The pump uses a wind turbine to draw air into the underground water chamber, where the change in temperature will cause condensation. The result is clean, safe water that uses a simple yet effective filtration system to keep foreign particles out of the water chamber.

The Waterseer pump is currently capable of producing 11 gallons of water each day and will continue to be optimized over time to increase clean water production for areas around the world.

UC Berkeley and the National Peace Corps Association have already teamed up with Waterseer to make an impact. Given that it is a non-profit group, 100 percent of all proceeds go to further developing the technology.

Access to clean water is a necessity for human life, so much so that in some water-scarce regions people are forced to give up six hours of their day to retrieve water that may be unsafe for consumption to survive. Continued research and support are instrumental in fighting the world’s water crisis and ensuring a better life for the entire planet.

Aaron Walsh

Photo: Flickr

The idea that technology can end poverty has been hotly debated in recent years. So much so that The Guardian’s Poverty Matters Blog made the claim that the “D” in ICT4D, or Information and Communication Technologies for Development, more resembled “debate” than development. Supporters say access to technology can accelerate economic development. Critics have pointed to classrooms full of unused computers and under-developed irrigation to show that, no, technology cannot end poverty.

The key to harnessing technology in the fight against poverty is to consider the usefulness of the technology to those living in extreme poverty. Technology can be cutting edge in theory but worthless in practice. For example, it does no good to develop a high-tech, high-yield seed if farmers do not have the space to store surplus crops.

Perhaps, as Susan Davis, CEO of BRAC USA, suggests, ‘tethering’ technology to reality will provide the common ground fertile enough to incubate a solution. In her recent article in the Harvard Business Review, Ms. Davis queries whether technology can end poverty. Noting that her organization, BRAC, is known for using surprisingly low-tech solutions, she goes on to praise the use of technology so long as it takes a practical approach to grappling with the local and human dimensions to the problem.

This approach is gaining traction. Even in universities, the importance of the perspective of the poor in crafting effective technology is made clear. The course description for Info 181. Technology and Poverty, a course at the UC Berkeley School of Information, includes the following:

“Students will come to understand poverty not only in terms of high-level indicators, but from a ground-level perspective as ‘the poor’ experience and describe it for themselves.”

The takeaway here is that through communication and practical awareness of conditions on the ground, technology can be a useful tool in addressing global poverty.

– Herman Watson

Sources: The Guardian, BBC, Harvard Business ReviewUC Berkeley

Jay Keasling a professor of chemical engineering at UC Berkeley will finally see his breakthrough mass-produced.  On April 10 the pharmaceutical company Sanofi will produce a partially synthetic version of artemisinin, a chemical critical to making today’s front-line antimalarial drug based on the scientist’s discovery. This new synthetic artemisinin is the first of its kind and could potentially save the lives of the hundreds of millions of people in developing countries who contract malaria each year. Already, 650,000 people, most of them children, die of the disease annually.

Over the centuries, sweet wormwood can be traced back to Ancient Chinese time as a treatment for malaria. The active ingredient in sweet wormwood, artemisinin, was rediscovered in the 1970’s and used commercially to treat malaria. Since then, a combination of chemicals and drugs have been used to treat malaria called ACT (Artemisinin Combination Therapy). In 2005 the World Health Organization declared ACT as the most effective malaria treatment available. Consequentially, demand for artemisinin has increased dramatically.

Today sweet wormwood is grown in Southeast Asia, China and Africa, and the quality, supply and cost of the extract varies greatly. By synthetically creating the chemical, Keasling hopes to reduce the use of such a resource as well as stabilize the quality and quantities of artemisinin in anti-malaria drugs in circulation today. Keasling also hopes that synthetic artemisinin will result in lowering costs to help get the life saving medicine to the people that need it the most.

-Kira Maixner

SourceUC Berkeley News Center