Water purification: a basic need

During my stay in Kenya, I acquired a new habit, one which I have kept in my daily life: drinking hot, really hot, water – like from the kettle. That’s common there. I guess it has to do with the need to purify the water before drinking it. Though it’s a basic need, water purification can’t be taken for granted – not only in Kenya, but in many other countries in Africa and around the world. In fact, a taxi driver in Ghana was amazed when I told him that in my country we drink tap water.

Water purification is not to be taken for granted
Water purification is not to be taken for granted

Conventional water sanitation systems are expensive to build and to maintain. But there is some good news! Floating Macrophyte Filters” (FMF) is a new affordable, sustainable water purification system. It’s an invention with the potential to change the lives of many Africans and others. As a matter of fact, its use in a 8,000-people town in Mali has reduced child mortality by 75%, as cholera has been eradicated.

FMF was recognized in Kyoto 2003 as one of the best proposals for progress in the water sector. In a nutshell, FMF uses macrophytes to eliminate heavy metals, nitrates, phosphates and organic matter from waste water. These are the steps involved in the water purification process:

  1. waste water is collected in a pond;
  2. the water is passed through the macrophytes;
  3. within five days, the water is purified and meets the WHO standards for drinkable water.

In contrast to conventional water purification systems, FMF offers a number of advantages, including:

  • construction and maintenance costs are 10 to 17% of conventional plants
  • FMF achieves up to 95% purity, compared to 84% using conventional systems
  • construction time is 6-8 months, as opposed to 18 months
  • it may work efficiently with small levels of waste water, making it fit for the needs of small population centers, while other systems require a minimum inflow of waste water that would not be met.

Don’t you think it would be great if it were widely adopted in places still in need of purified water?

You may wonder if I have shares in Hidrolution, the company that has patented FMF! Well… I don’t. I just think it’s a great system. You can see a short informative video (9′ 31”) at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2S-VmTPQkWE

10 thoughts on “Water purification: a basic need

  1. Good post, Africa. All these low maintenance and cheap construction solutions are always welcome for many places in emerging markets. I have to say though, that many times, the problem is more about institutional capacity to tackle the problem than about technological issues. Water purification technologies are low tech and well known since the early 20th century. Same thing with sewage. They are not expensive neither. We should wonder how it is possible that still so many millions of people lack the access, for example, to healthy communal water sources (e.g. fountains). From getting the water straight from a river to having drinking water in your tap, there are many intermediate affordable solutions. FMF might be one of them.
    Regards and thank you for writing about such interesting topics in Africa.

    1. Thank you, Rafael. I totally agree with you with regards the need to renew institutions — and this requires personal transformation of institutional leaders, as usual! One thing I like about FMF is that it may be affordable to those serving small communities, leaving ample room for the private initiative.

    1. Hi Lucia, having new, affordable alternatives for a need as basic as purified water is indeed good news!

  2. This is really a good news to many countries. For many people water purification is a big task as maintenance cost is bit high. This FMF is really very helpful for them. Thanks for sharing this useful news.Love to share this.

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