An affordable, sustainable drinking water treatment system designed by a U.S. laboratory is being used successfully in Ghana, India, Sri Lanka, Mexico, South America and the Philippines.
The technology, which uses ultraviolet light to disinfect water safely and cheaply, was designed by Ashok Gadgil at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
[...] The lab licensed the purification system to the U.S. firm WaterHealth International (WHI), which is working to expand access to affordable drinking water in developing countries.
WaterHealth Centre, India. Photo: WHI
[...] 1 million people have access to clean water from more than 200 WHI water centers in India, where the technology was introduced in 2006 and established through a partnership with the Naandi Foundation.
Other NGOs such as the Lions Club also have provided funding, as have several foreign-born physicians residing in the United States who want to support their home towns.
[...] In the past, donated or purchased water treatment technology sometimes failed [...] because communities had to struggle to maintain the facilities.
To overcome this, WHI developed “WaterHealth Centres” where water is treated centrally for a small community using a variety of approaches, including:
- ultraviolet water disinfection technology, which is highly effective against harmful germs, and does not require high energy, high water pressure or sophisticated maintenance procedures;
- new buildings, which also can be used for community meetings and social events, to house the systems;
- local personnel hired and trained to operate and maintain the systems;
- hygiene and health education programs that emphasize the economic benefits of avoiding waterborne illnesses;
- narrow-neck water-storage containers to avoid water recontamination;
- marketing to inform residents of the water treatment and its benefits;
- financing for a portion of initial installation costs ($20 per person for a small village in India, for example).
WHI asks communities to make a down payment – sometimes provided by a local government, philanthropist or NGO – and then helps finance the remaining balance. Once the loan is repaid, the community owns the center.
To cover loan payments and operation and maintenance costs, consumers are charged a small fee for purified water. [O]ne village in Ghana charges 5 cents for 20 liters of treated water.
Local entrepreneurs often start businesses delivering treated water by bicycle or truck.
Customers at the WaterHealth Centre in Afuaman, Ghana, wait for their water.
[In Ghana] WHI partners with U.S. nonprofit World Vision Ghana for the health-education component of the program. In December 2007, WHI opened a pilot water center in Afuaman, serving about 3,700 people. [...] Construction of five additional WHI centers in Ghana will be completed by March  in partnership with the U.S. nonprofit Safe Water Network, which funds the project.
“The government of Ghana has been extremely supportive at both the district level, by assisting the communities in raising the down payments, and at the federal level, by waiving import taxes and duties on imported equipment,” said Bismark Nerquaye-Tetteh, who has worked with the U.S. Agency for International Development’s West Africa Water Initiative.
Source: Nancy Pontius, America.gov, 12 Jan 2009