Irish researcher saves lives using sunlight to make safe drinking water

Published by Laurie Manetta on

September 12th, 2016

Water resources represent two thirds of Earth’s surface, when land is only one. Intensification of climate change and growing population puts pressure on water resources quality. SODIS in actionIndeed, each year 5 to 10 billion tons of industrial waste are thrown out in rivers and oceans. Water pollution became a real issue since a large part of the global population don’t have access to safe drinking water that kills a child every 90 seconds. How can we stop that ?

One Irish researcher has been working for a number of years on a solution. Today we are highlighting the work of Prof Kevin McGuigan from the Royal College of Surgeons which is bringing safe drinking water to many parts of the world.

“Even Irish sunlight can be used to kill bacteria in water in glass or plastic bottles”, says Prof Kevin McGuigan, associate professor in the Department of Physiology and Medical Physics and director of the Solar Disinfection Group at the Royal College of Surgeons.

Access to clean water isn’t secure for hundreds of millions of people in the world. The solution could be Solar Water Disinfection (SODIS). Indeed, this easy technique consists in putting water in plastic bottle or glass container and then expose themRésultat de recherche d'images pour "access drinking water" to the sun for at least 6 hours. The effect of thermal heating and UV radiation kill the parasites. However, you have to consider different criteria to succeed. It is strongly advised to use transparent bottles to ease the process. The water mustn’t be too murky, otherwise the method doesn’t work as it can, you need to filter it before. Also, you have to consider the weather, if more than half of the sky is covered with clouds, the bottle needs 2 consecutive days of sunlight.

Solar disinfection has existed for 30 years and has been tested in Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Cambodia. One of its benefit is to significantly improve child health by reducing by 25-50% diarrhoeal disease. Nevertheless, SODIS method is no replacement for access to safe drinking water since it can’t be used for large volumes of water and can’t treat chemically polluted water. Distributing plastic bottles doesn’t respect a sustainable application, but it is a first step to allow poor populations to improve their living conditions. The benefits of this method are that it is simple and low cost and can be used in many different conditions. It is also easy to roll out through educational work in schools and local campaigns.

[x_button shape=”square” size=”regular” float=”none” href=”” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover”]Click here to find out more about the work of Prof McGuigan [/x_button]

[x_author title=”About the Author”]

Related Post
Last chance to amend weak climate bill

Friends of the Earth, An Taisce, and Stop Climate Chaos lead the charge to amend the Climate Bill before it Read more

European TV station are looking for Irish people to produce a short video on climate change to air in France and Germany

TV channel ARTE are looking for Irish people to take part in a programme which will air during the COP21 Read more

The Environmental Pillar rejects eco-label given to an Irish salmon farm

The Environmental Pillar wishes to make clear to consumers and public that it rejects the awarding of an environmental certificate Read more

Calls to shorten the hedge cutting and gorse burning ban has no basis in science, say An Taisce

The environmental and heritage group are rejecting calls from the Irish Farming Association to shorten the hedge cutting times. An Read more

Laurie Manetta

Laurie is a contributor to the Green News. She is currently undertaking a Master's Degree in Environmental Policy at Sciences PO Grenoble in France.