solar water pasteurizers make safe drinking
water in tanzania
"it's a very special gift as it allows us to assure our patients that they will not
get sick from drinking the water at the hospital," writes mark l. jacobson, m.d.,
administrator of the selian lutheran hospital in arusha, tanzania, in a letter of thanks
to safe water systems, after installation of the company's solar water
"in our area, very few people have access to any kind of protected water source. most
get their water from surface streams and runoff, and much of it is contaminated,"
writes jacobson. "now we can offer drinking water that is pasteurized. we are
supplying all 115 beds in the hospital with drinking water from the single unit."
five sol*saver systems were purchased as part of a pilot project sponsored by colorado's
greeley redeye rotary club, three other colorado rotary clubs, lutheran world relief and
two colorado lutheran churches in an effort to bring safe drinking water to remote areas
of tanzania, east africa.
in july 1996, john grandinetti, safe water systems president and sol*saver's inventor,
traveled to tanzania to install the systems. three pasteurization units went to sites in
or near arusha: selian lutheran hospital, maasai school for girls, and dareda agricultural
development center (for use as a demonstration and training model). the other two were
destined for the multi-village, 900-student okokola primary school; and the diaconical
centre, a medical dispensary, aids counseling and orphan assistance facility in the
village of mto wa mbu.
"the sol*saver systems come partially assembled, so it's easy and fast to install
them," says grandinetti. "they have easy connect fittings and don't require a
great deal of skill or a plumber." the systems will work properly without pumps as
long as gravity provides enough pressure for the water flow, according to
one of the biggest roadblocks to providing clean drinking water in developing countries,
according to grandinetti, is the availability of fire wood and the cost of boiling
contaminated water. many people have no choice but to drink directly from polluted water
unsafe drinking water is one of the leading health challenges in the world today:
* 80% of all infectious diseases in developing countries are transmitted through water
* as a result each year more four million children die
now there is a simple, effective and low-cost way to prevent needless disease and death.
water can be made safe to drink using only the heat of the sun and the time-tested process
of pasteurization. even sewage-laden water can be completely disinfected.
some are more fortunate. grandinetti visited the home of a school teacher who makes $160 a
month to support herself plus a family of seven. she spends $10 a month, or 1/16th of her
income, on charcoal fuel for cooking and boiling just two-and-a-half-gallons of water a
day for her family. says selian hospital's jacobson, "electricity is very expensive
for us. whether we are purchasing it or generating it ourselves, we pay about $.25 per
kilowatt hour, making electrical costs a full ten percent of our budget. to boil drinking
water for our patients with electricity would be prohibitively expensive."
stories like these are not uncommon in developing nations. grandinetti and hartzell plan
to work with other groups who are interested in setting up their solar pasteurization
systems worldwide. their goal is to provide a simple and cost effective way of
disinfecting drinking water and making a positive difference in the lives of millions of
people throughout the world.
after a customs office delay of almost a week, grandinetti was able to install three
units-all donated by safe water systems as field-test demonstration models-in january,
1996, under the direction of the university of the valley of guatemala. one system was
destined for the coastal village of morazan, a dry, sunny, desert-like area, and a
three-hour drive south of guatemala city by four-wheel drive. before sol*saver was
installed, illness and diarrhea caused by contaminated water were rampant, especially
during the rainy season.
choosing a centrally located site to install the unit and its holding tanks posed a
challenge since the village, which has no electricity, was laid out along narrow dirt
pathways. grandinetti eventually settled on a suitable, elevated rocky area near one of
the water spigots dotting the main trails. curious villagers pitched in and helped with
the installation, which took 4-5 hours. "we talked at length with a villager who was
in charge of the spring and its piping system," says grandinetti. "he will be
the one responsible for maintaining the sol*saver system."
a second system was installed at an orphanage in the remote mountainous village of santa
apolonia north of guatemala city. catholic nuns there had previously been buying firewood
to boil drinking water for the children in their care. electricity was available, but just
too expensive to use for pasteurizing water. the third guatemalan system was installed at
a rotary sponsored orphanage in santa rosa.
grandinetti returned to guatemala three months after the two installations to check the
systems and make necessary adjustments. "as the first units in the field, they're a
source of valuable feedback," he says, "and in the meantime, they're providing
clean drinking water for a lot of people."