Desolenator combines the power of the sun and crowdfunding in an effort to bring clean water independence to millions of people living in water-scarce locations around the world.
Desolenator, an award-winning British company, harnesses the power of the sun using patented technology to transform salt water, and other dirty waters from inland sources, into clean drinking water. The product requires no power supply other than the sun, and can produce up to 15 liters of sanitized, distilled drinking water per day. The company launched a crowdfuding campaign at the beginning of December to help get the Desolenator prototype to production.
Just Add Sunshine for Clean Water
Desolenator’s developers created the water purification system with end users in mind. With no moving parts or filters, it is easy to maintain. Desolenator is being incubated by Innovation eXperience, an international social innovation developer. Alexei Levene, Managing Director of Innovation eXperience, told nuviun:
“Desolenator assures families of clean drinking water for up to 20 years, without electricity, or hours spent carrying buckets of water to their homes.”
The Global Water Crisis
In 2013, 85% of the world’s population lived on the driest half of the planet. In Africa alone, 40 billion hours are spent collecting water each year. In Ethiopia, the jugs women use to carry water back to their village can weigh up to 40 pounds.
The water crisis extends into Papua New Guinea and other countries in the Asia/Pacific region. In Yemen, where less than half of the population has clean drinking water, waterborne illnesses affect 75% of the population, and are responsible for the deaths of 55,000 children annually.
Despite the abundance of freshwater lakes in Nicaragua, 80 percent of rural dwellers live without safe drinking water.
The Health Toll of Unclean Water
Mr. Levene believes that “the availability of clean water is a precondition for all health issues.”
Unclean drinking water leads to many, often deadly diseases, including diarrhea, cholera, and typhoid. Exposure to unsanitized water can also lead to eye infections and parasitic worm infestations.
Globally, waterborne illnesses are the second leading cause of death for children under five, killing 1,400 children every day, according to UNICEF.
Half of the deaths occur in just five countries – India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, and China. Without clean drinking water to prepare baby formula, many women with HIV/AIDS breastfeed even though they know they could transmit the disease to their children. Additionally, many of the opportunistic diseases that weaken immune systems and often kill people with HIV/AIDS are transmitted through contaminated drinking water.
According to the World Health Organization, access to sanitized water can help protect human health when viral outbreaks occur, such as the current Ebola Virus. During an outbreak, health workers need sanitized water for hand washing, for adequate caregiver and patient hydration, as well as for the safe disposal of human waste.
For the 783 million people in the world without access to clean drinking water, and the 2.5 billion individuals who do not have access to adequate sanitation, Desolenator holds the potential for a healthier future.
“The product is different from existing desalination and home water technologies,” Desolenator’s inventor and CEO William Janssen explains, as “it harnesses solar power in an elegant, new way. It maximizes the amount of solar radiation that hits the technology’s surface area through a combination of thermal, electrical and heat exchange, creating pure, clean drinking water through the power of the sun.”
Crowdfunding Innovation: The Journey to Production
Mr. Janssen discussed Desolenator’s Indiegogo campaign with nuviun. Thus far, the project has been mostly self-funded. With some support from the European Union, the help of Innovation eXperience, and an award-winning prototype, Desloneator is looking to the wider world – via social media – to help get the prototype to production. After only 10 days, the Indiegogo campaign has had over 10,000 hits, and is enjoying a high conversion rate. The average donation is just under $20 (USD).
Although Mr. Janssen admits, “crowdfunding is a bit of a gamble,” the campaign has the makings of success. As of December 11, the company had raised more than $53,700 of its $150,000 goal (all funds in USD).
Jenn Lonzer has a B.A. in English from Cleveland State University and an M.A. in Health Communication from Johns Hopkins University. Passionate about access to care and social justice issues, Jenn writes on global digital health developments, research, and trends. Follow Jenn on Twitter @jnnprater3.