An Israeli water tech company has designed an off-grid household water purification system that it says is sustainable, cheap, easy to use, and could provide millions of households in developing countries with clean drinking water.
Throughout the developing world, family members — usually women and children — commonly walk long distances to natural water sources to fill up bottles and jerrycans.
These water bodies can be contaminated by anything from feces to chemicals, and cause diseases ranging from cholera, diarrhea, and dysentery to hepatitis A, typhoid, and polio.
To help address this, the Alumor company has developed an appliance that it calls Miriam’s Well, after the miracle source that, according to Jewish tradition, provided water to the Israelites throughout their 40 years in the wilderness.
Powered by solar energy, the modern Miriam’s Well requires no electric socket.
It is fitted with advanced ultraviolet technology that kills viruses and bacteria to US National Sanitation Foundation standards, and it contains a filter that needs rinsing just a few times a year.
Alumor’s business development director, David Waimann, a cleantech entrepreneur and trained engineer originally from the UK, told The Times of Israel that household members will simply connect the device to a jerrycan or other container via a pipe, and press a button.
The device is lightweight, uses just four watts of electricity, and purifies each liter of water for less than half a cent, he said.
It therefore avoids problems that have dogged other water purification systems in the developing world, such as a need for professional maintenance backup, replacement parts, and accessories, or materials such as chlorine, which are not always easy to find.
Alumor’s designer and chief technical officer, Eldad Maziel, formerly worked for the Strauss Group brand Tami4, one of Israel’s most popular suppliers of countertop water purification appliances.
CEO Dr. Yacov Malinovich is a physicist, with other team members including a hydrologist and an entrepreneur, Yosef Abramowitz, who built Israel’s first solar energy field and is helping with marketing.
Identifying a potential market of 250 million households, Alumor is hoping to sell its devices at cost through nonprofit organizations.
It has completed the product development stage, thanks to a government grant and prize, and now seeks $1 million to fine-tune the device, increase its purification capacity from one liter to two liters per minute, pilot it, and begin first series production.
According to World Health Organization figures (from 2017), 144 million people collect untreated surface water from lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams, with 435 million people taking their water from unprotected wells and springs.
In 2017, over 220 million people needed preventative treatment for schistosomiasis – an acute and chronic disease caused by parasitic worms contracted through exposure to infested water.
Some 829,000 people are estimated to die each year from diarrhea as a result of unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation and hand hygiene.