Sunday, September 16, 2012


Water is becoming more and more precious with each passing day because of scarcity caused by global warming and reckless ground water extraction. While in many developed countries citizens are "showered" with abundant water, most poor countries have to live with the reality that even the minimum recommended water need of their citizens remains a dream! A country like India lives perpetually short of water even for agriculture, with more than 80% of water requirement being met by rains which have a tendency to play the "hide and seek" game and if rains fail the whole economy get adversely impacted. In the urban landscape, each town or city is supposed to provide protected water supply to its residents. Here again most citizens consider themselves lucky even if good water comes through their taps at least once in a day, that too for a couple of hours! Talking about rural folks, water is like a mirage and whatever is available cannot be considered potable making them vulnerable to multitude of water borne diseases through out their life. What a fate! It is in this context that a recent report claiming the design of a pure water producing solar based contraption that can supply at least 5 liters of pure water a day, even from sea water, is kindling some hope for these folks. This low cost solar water still can be a boon to millions of villagers who are fortunate to have some source of water in their area. Have a close look at this gadget from the report quoted below.

"As a graduate student, Italian designer Gabrielle Diamanti's travels exposed him to the global water crisis and the issue became a fascination for him. Fortunately he's been able to use his skills as a designer to create something that could make a big difference for those with little access to clean water. The Eliodomestico is an open source design for what is essentially a solar still, but with thoughtful details to make it even more functional and easy to use for those in coastal areas where salt water is abundant, but fresh water isn't. Technology doesn't always have to be complicated, sometimes the simplest materials and concepts are the best. The Eliodomestico works like an upside-down coffee percolator to desalinate salt water. The ceramic oven has three main pieces. The top black container is where the salt water is poured. As the sun heats the salt water and creates steam, the pressure that builds pushes the steam through a pipe in the middle section. The steam condenses against the lid of the basin at the bottom and then drips into the basin, where it is collected. The oven can make about five liters of fresh water a day. The design can be built for about $50 and although Diamanit used terracotta for his prototypes, local craftsmen can use whatever materials are most abundant where they live. The basin is also designed to be comfortably carried on the head, which is common in sub-Saharan Africa and other places around the world. Solar still technology is old and not uncommon to find in developing nations, but it's often on a much larger scale, like at hospitals or water desalination plants that serve entire communities. Diamanti wanted to create this open source project so that individual families could have access to the same desalination process in a simple-to-use format".
Desalination of sea water has become a viable proposition and commercial desalination plants using reverse osmosis process are operating in many countries. However distillation using solar heat and recovering pure water for use in house holds can be a boon as the processing cost will be very low. Besides it is green technology with no carbon foot print of any consequence. The non-conventional energy agencies, water management organizations, health departments and village authorities must work 
together to bring the results of the above development group to every village starving for potable water in different parts of the world. Each and every school in rural areas must be fitted with such solar stills to provide safe drinking water to the children attending the schools. Tremendous expansion of the bottled water industry during the last two decades owes it entirely to the inaction and morbidity of government agencies in addressing this problem with any sense of urgency or commitment. Will the central and state governments in India at least wake up now and look at the solar still as a viable solution to the potable water shortage in the country? The helpless citizens can only wait and see.


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