Water purification plants around the globe typically are built near a power plant and population centers because of high energy needs for reverse osmosis filtration and associated pumping to residents and businesses. Desalination projects are even more energy intensive. These plants mostly run on fossil fuels (coal or oil), creating GHG emissions that contribute to health, environmental and climate problems. Moreover, these municipal systems are of no value to people in poor, undeveloped, remote areas. It is estimated there are over a billion people in the world (Africa, Asia, Latin America) with no access to safe drinking water and over two billion that cannot trust the safety of the water emerging from their taps.
So this article looks at a number of companies that are helping to solve the world “crisis” of safe water availability… and are doing so with little or no carbon footprint. In many locations, bottled water was the only solution, but that has created landfills of empty plastic bottles, not to mention the emissions created by manufacturing and transporting the bottles – delivered filled to the consumer and empty to the landfill. Popular carbon filter systems attached to your water faucet provide safety for those with “indoor plumbing.” However, water is pumped from the muni system and that takes energy, mostly by burning fossil fuels. This is of no value to the villages of Kenya. Now there’s clean energy technology to provide safe drinking water to remote areas that does not contribute to the growing global pollution problem. Below are some providers.
Aqua Sun International is a Nevada-based manufacturer of PV solar-powered water filtration and purification systems for developing countries and remote areas anywhere. Former solar systems contractor, inventor, and now president, Greg Hansen, accomplished his goal of applying the clean power benefits of PV solar energy to the power needs of water purification. So wherever in the world Aqua-Sun systems travel to produce clean drinking water, there is a zero carbon footprint. What started as a business venture over 20 years ago is now “my passion,” says Mr. Hanson.
Perhaps more importantly, the application of solar power enables portability to sites and regions of the world without electricity. These can satisfy a myriad of situations ranging from villages in developing countries, disaster relief areas, military outposts, new construction projects, or your own personal oasis if you are off-grid. To-date Aqua-Sun has over 2000 installations, with installations in almost every country. Sales are generally not direct, but funneled thru various NGO’s, churches,
philanthropies, and government entities such as the Dept of Defense and UN.
To meet the diversity of needs, their portable systems scale from the “Responder S,” that produces up to 370 liters per day (lpd) of clean drinking water, to the cart-mounted “Outpost S,” that generates up to 3700 lpd. The “Villager” line of 4 systems is easily shipped and installed and designed to be stationary, with a range of output from 370 lpd (S1 model) to 31,968 lpd (S12 model). Price-wise, the Villager S6 purifies 3700 l and costs $5500. The Aqua Tender line is a mobile system, with all components housed within a wheeled, enclosed trailor, producing anywhere from 18,500 to 888,000 lpd, depending on the unit.
With PV solar as the power source for Aqua Sun units, carbon emissions from large power plants are non-existent. The main filtration process to eliminate particulates is accomplished by a minimum of 20 psi pressure provided by the PV panels. The PV power source is also adequate to operate the metering, as well as the ultra violet purification process that eliminates bacteria and pathogens.
Water Security Corp is a Nevada-based water purification technology company founded in 2005 that enables the production of safe drinking water using the water purification system developed by NASA (MCV). Water Security (WSC) now owns sole rights to this process. WSC has built and placed 800 village “Discovery” systems in Mexico. However their main focus — and distinction — is licensing this technology internationally to approved manufacturers and distributors worldwide for incorporation into their product lines. Currently, such partnerships are operating in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan. Mexico, South America, and New Zealand. Thru this partner network, the ambition of the company is “to bring potable water solutions to those in need at a price they can afford,” according to vice president Jim Kubinec.
Being a technology (licensing) company rather than a product company, possible applications can be as diverse as their partners. For example, AquaSure embeds the WSC technology into a home water purification system, manufactured and sold by market-leader Eureka Forbes in India. Worldwide Water in New Zealand is marketing WSC’s technology in Survival Bags for disaster situations and extreme conditions. Survival Bags as well as the village Discovery systems are marketed by Sinergia Sistemas in Latin America. Clean water “re-fueling” stations are being installed in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The WSC includes no power source with its technology, stating “gravity” is sufficient to drive water thru their filtration system. Partners can add their own power source (generators, electricity), depending on the type of product and volumes needed. The village Discovery system will produce 21,600 lpd of safe water at 60 psi, and, at lower pressure of 24 psi (gravity) the output is 15,840 lpd (4200 gallons), enough for about 4000 people. Besides WSC being a “technology play” licensing company, their main differentiator is ‘iodinated resin” (iodine impregnated beads) water purification that has proved effective for decades with the NASA space program. The series of filters in sequence remove particulates, chemicals, bacteria, viruses and pathogens, with the Iodosorb filter removing any residual traces of the iodine.
Other Notables With No Carbon Footprint
Epiphany Solar Water Systems — a Pittsburgh, PA-based company that uses concentrated solar thermal power (CSP) to heat salt and other contaminated waters in remote areas, then distill it to create safe drinking water. A three-dishsystem provides 500 gallons of water per day. Costs are reported to be five cents a gallon, comparable to large, conventional desalination plants running on electricity from fossil fuels.
Global Nature Fund — a joint effort by Osram (Siemens) of Germany and Wisions to provide solar solutions to unsafe drinking water, lighting, and cell phone recharging in Kenya. If successful, will expand beyond Kenya to other remote areas of the world.
Water One World Solutions — based in Ft.Myers, FL, this is not a company per se, but a group dedicated to providing solar-purified, clean drinking water to depressed areas of the world. They raise funds for projects, work with in-country officials, and place solar water systems from various companies.
WaterFX — based in Fresno, CA, this company applies Concentrated Solar Still technology to convert salt or other treatable water into fresh water for agribusinesses, other water-dependent businesses and communities. In a year, the young company plans to produce 2 million gallons of fresh water daily.
Water Purification Companies With A Small Footprint
With water purification well established, there are many familiar brands. They do not use solar systems to purify and are not carbon neutral. In fact, they contribute minimally to pollution by depending on water pressure from municipal water systems, which mostly burn coal. Here are a few of these:
• Brita in Oakland, CA
• Culligan in Illinois
• Kinetico of OH
• Koch Membrane Systems in MA
• Pur water filters, corporate HQ not known
• The Water Project in NH