Clean water through sunshine

Water is fundamental to human survival. It is also one of the biggest health threats to more than 660 million people in Africa, Asia, and Latin America who still don’t have access to safe drinking water. According to the UNICEF, Kenya has the third-largest number of people in sub-Saharan Africa who drink directly from contaminated surface water sources – 9.4 million people. Also, in our MMH area in Bungoma County, Kenya, many people are denied access to clean drinking water. With a population of 47.6 million, 41 % of Kenyans still rely on unimproved water sources, such as ponds, shallow wells, and rivers. These challenges are especially evident in the rural areas and the urban slums, like in Bungoma county, where we run regularly MMH health & hygiene awareness trainings for humans and animals as well as income generation programs.

Many of the daily challenges experienced by the local people are water-related: inadequate food production because of dependence on rain-fed agriculture, waterborne related diseases for humans and animal (like diarrhea, typhoid, cholera), and long-distance to access water points. The water in the rural areas of the county is often of bad quality because of many factors. These include inadequate protection of water points both surface and underground. Also poor hygiene practices leading to water contamination by human feces, washing clothes and sharing water points with livestock lead to further detrimental effects on water quality. 

Clean water - with WADI

In June 2020, we launched together with our environmental expert team a pilot project for better drinking water in Bungoma County in cooperation with the Austrian company HELIOZ. HELIOZ offers a simple solution for treating drinking water - through UV radiation. Their product WADI (WAter DIsinfection), is a solar-powered UV measurement device that visualizes the process of solar water disinfection (SODIS) in PET bottles.* It measures UV-A and UV-B radiation and shows when sufficient disinfection of coliform bacteria and germs has taken place. The WADI is usable wherever there is enough sunlight and does not require an external power source. It also contributes to the reduction of CO2 emissions, since water no longer needs to be boiled using firewood or gas.

The application is simple -  water (it must be clear enough to recognize at least your fingers through a plastic bottle; otherwise you have to pre-filter it) is filled in a plastic container with a capacity of up to 3 liters and put in a sunny place. While many bottles are filled in parallel and put under the sun in one particular space, the WADI device measures the sun intensity. When the water is highly germ-reduced, the Sensor will show a smiley. The whole process takes about a few hours, depending on the intensity of solar radiation.

“We are doing a step in the right direction when we use the power of the sun and a robust and durable sensor technology, which is easy to use for the people. This is a prerequisite for a success of the program,” explains Mathias Locher, project lead for EHS &Sustainability.

Support of more than 6.000 individuals

Field studies have shown that solar radiation in Bungoma County is suitable for the SODIS* method. Our project region has been divided into six pilot areas; each area identified 40 households for piloting the project. Besides the family test areas also two community locations (schools) will be involved in the project, which will support around 6,000 individuals in the next three months.

"HELIOZ is delighted to participate in this initiative and to support the local organizations with WADI technology and expertise in the WASH sector. Together with Making More Health and Boehringer Ingelheim we are able to provide safe drinking water and contribute to local Covid-19 relief measures in Dungoma County." says Gregor Riss, Head of Business Development at HELIOZ.

Implementation phase

At the beginning of July 2020, HELIOZ trained four members of our local partner NGOs, GAASPP and Ampath, on the project and usage of the WADI device. They will be responsible for the local implementation and maintenance of the WADIs in the future and will train the participating households and communities in the use of the equipment as well as in better hygiene practices. During the pilot project, a continuous quality testing in laboratories will take place to provide exact data and safety on the water quality.

“Sustainable improvement of the health situation in these poor surrounding requires a variety of activities in parallel such as health and hygiene trainings, but also investments in the improvement of infrastructures and income generation activities, Investing in a better drinking water quality is for sure an essential element to make more health happen”, says Manuela Pastore, global lead of the MMH initiative.

We from Making More Health and our colleagues from Boehringer Ingelheim “EHS & Sustainability” are looking forward to seeing how this sustainable solution is adopted and how it works in our local communities.

Stay tuned for more information and updates on this project.

For more infromation on HELIOZ click here.

* SODIS is a Point of Use treatment system that uses solar radiation to inactivate waterborne pathogens (= microbiological contamination). The SODIS method has been developed in the 1980s and was further investigated by the Swiss research institute EAWAG.