• Water
  • 11th December 2017

Clean Drinking Water Appeal

Article by Chris Short CEng MIChemE

The Water SIG's charity appeal for safe drinking water in Cambodia is aiming to raise £7,500

(charity: water)

IChemE’s Water Special Interest Group is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, and we've marked this by running a greatly increased number of events and other special initiatives. We're particularly concerned about the lack of safe water supplies affecting millions of people around the world, and how we can help to improve the situation.

Every day, about 1,400 children die from diseases caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are simple solutions like drilled wells, spring protections and water treatments that help provide clean water to communities around the world.

However, the ever more sophisticated water treatment processes required to meet stringent water quality standards in wealthy nations are neither appropriate nor necessary for basic treatment of supplies for rural communities in many developing countries. By basic treatment I mean the reduction of pathogenic organisms which occur in many water sources and can lead to debilitating illness and even death, especially when they are present in water that children have to drink.

Every day, about 1,400 children die from diseases caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation

Even when we have the most advanced processes available to us, public water quality professionals adhere to the concept of multiple barriers; first, protect the supply as far as possible from pollution by animals, sewage etc, then remove as much particulate matter as possible, since many of the pathogens are associated with particles, and then apply a disinfection process – typically chlorination, but alternatively ozonation and other chemical oxidants, or ultraviolet light. Boiling the water is also effective of course, as is distillation. 

But the complexity and cost of such disinfectant procedures is a big issue for rural areas in developing countries. Happily, filtration alone, if correctly engineered and maintained, will sufficiently reduce pathogens to provide a great reduction in risks to health.

BioSand filter

This is why we want to raise £7,500 together to fund a BioSand Filter project in Cambodia. There’s plenty of water in Cambodia, but it often isn’t safe to drink. Clear Cambodia provides BioSand Filters to schools and communities in need of clean water. Our partner, charity: water, appeals for donations on behalf of Clear Cambodia and many other programmes.

What is the BioSand filter? It works like the slow sand filters used for over 150 years to purify water supplies in cities throughout the world, notably London. Raw water percolates slowly under gravity through a bed of fine sand supported on layers of coarser sand and gravel (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Inside the BioSand filter (charity:water)

Bacteria colonise the sand and a combination of physical and biological processes remove particles and pathogens, so that the treated water coming out is clear and much safer to drink. In accordance with chemical engineering principles, the BioSand filter is engineered to be fit for purpose – in this case, simply constructed out of local materials, and easily used and maintained, as the illustrations show (see Figures 2,3,4,and 5).

Figure 2: Constructing a filter tank (charity: water)
Figure 3: Placing filter media into the tank (charity: water)
Figure 4: Feeding with contaminated water (charity:water)
Figure 5: Delivering treated water (charity: water)

Don't delay

If we don't hit our target, charity: water will use the donated funds for the country of greatest need. No matter what, 100% of the money will be used to build clean water projects, and when they’re complete, charity: water will report back on the programme we funded.

So please join us in donating to the appeal – however much you can afford, we promise that it will directly benefit the health and prospects of people who don't at present enjoy the safe water supply that most of us take entirely for granted.

Donate at our Virgin Money Giving page –  http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fund/IChemEWaterSIGis30  –  and please don't delay – our appeal must end on 31 December so that the money collected can be released to the appropriate engineering programme.

Aqueum, a cooperative of consultants working in the water industry, has pledged to match pound for pound, any donations made between 15 and 30 December until the £7,500 trigger value is met.

“Please let your employers, clients, consultants, vendors, accountants, lawyers, supply chain contacts, friends and relatives know about this valuable cause, and donate now ,” said Martin Currie, an Aqueum consultant and new chair of IChemE’s Water Special Interest Group.

Article by Chris Short CEng MIChemE

Independent Water Quality Consultant

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