A new Halifax-based organization has developed a cost-effective water purification system and will be launching a pilot project in the Gambia and Kenya.
Founded by 20-year-old Rachel Brouwer, The Purification Project will bring water purification systems to vulnerable Kenyan and Gambian communities living without access to safe water.
When Brouwer was 11 years old, she realized not everyone in the world had access to clean drinking water after reading a sign on a hiking trip that read, “Caution, do not drink. The water source is contaminated.”
“I started thinking maybe there’s a solution to this,” she says.
Over the next six years, she researched ways to purify water and eventually designed and developed a fully operational water purification tool that now has the potential to change millions of lives.
In 2016, Brouwer was the recipient of a prize at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix for her invention.
Brouwer says the project has “re-sparked out of the blue.”
While studying political science at Dalhousie University, she joined a program that connected youth from the Maritimes to youth in Africa to discuss community issues in relation to sustainable development goals.
Brouwer said the connections she made in the program have allowed her to take her invention to the next level.
“Repeatedly members from Kenya and the Gambia brought up issues of water and food accessibility and I went into this program not even thinking about my project but after everyone kept showing photos of their wells and talking about the impact water accessibility has on their communities.”
After hearing these stories, Brouwer thought that this could be an opportunity to go beyond discussing community issues and start solving them instead.
“I had the privilege of presenting my work on water sanitation and purification to the group participants from Africa, and with their support, we decided to form The Purification Project.”
All of the volunteers from the Gambia, Kenya and Nova Scotia are working collectively to launch the pilot project. They are all under the age of 25.
“Our youngest member is 17. He is located in the Gambia. He is a very passionate individual. I’m very lucky to work with these folks.”
The two-part system uses a filter and a colour indicator that are both manufactured by a 3D printer, as well as a two-litre plastic bottle, which is easily accessible in developing countries.
The device enables a process called solar pasteurization.
The heat from the sun kills the bacteria in the water. The small compact funnel filter improves the turbidity of the water and once the water is taken from the source and run through the filter, it goes into two-litre bottles, at which point the colour indicator is placed inside the bottle.
“Once the water reaches that desired temperature, the colour in the indicator moves locations and they know that it’s safe to drink.”
Hassan Hydara, one of the volunteers in the Gambia, says accessing clean drinking water is a huge issue in his home country. He believes the water purification systems will help alleviate the issues some of the rural communities are encountering.
“Students will not have to miss their class because they have to struggle with a stomach-ache, diarrhea, which is mostly caused from the unclean safe water that they drink,” says Hydara.
The pilot project is pending and reliant on funding. Brouwer has set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to manufacture and ship the product.