New Filter Offers Hope for Cleaner Drinking Water in Developing World

The World Water Council estimates that 1.1 billion people, just under a sixth of the world’s population, do not have access to safe drinking water. A cost-effective filtering device, developed by scientists at South Africa’s Stellenbosch University, could help reduce this statistic.

The filter resembles a standard tea bag, but is far more intricate in design. Polluted water first passes through a mesh of microscopic nanofibres, each a thousand times thinner than a strand of hair, which removes bacteria. The next filtration layer is a coating of biocides, chemicals that destroy microbes responsible for diseases such as cholera. Instead of tealeaves the bag contains active carbon granules, which extract chemical pollutants.

The bags are entirely biodegradable and can be used only once. Each bag can purify one liter of contaminated water.
“More than 90% of all cholera cases are reported in Africa and 300-million people on our continent do not have access to safe drinking water, says Professor Eugene Cloete, chairperson of the university’s Water Institute. “Clearly, something has to be done about this.”

The bag filter is currently undergoing testing at the South African Bureau of Standards. Although the retail price has not been finalized, Cloete indicates that various companies and aid organizations have voiced an interest. Distribution will likely begin in January 2011.

Image: Jacques Botha, for MediaClubSouthAfrica.com

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