In the developing world, it is not uncommon to see sewage pile up in the streets with nowhere to go but into the local drinking water. This is an issue that contributes to more than 10% of the disease burden on the entire world. It is estimated that more than 700 million people in the world are drinking unsafe water every day, and according to the World Health Organization, more than a million children under the age of five in developing nations die each year as a result of contaminated water and poor sanitation.
While precious time and money have been spent in years past in building sewer lines for rural developing communities, researchers recently took an innovative tack that could transform the sewage into something useful- such as safe drinking water.
The novel machine takes sewer sludge, boils it, captures the produced liquid and processes the vapor into clean and safe drinking water. The solid waste from the process gets incinerated within the machine which burns the waste, creates heat and generates a high-temperature steam which then fuels the process, making it self-sustainable. There is even some left over electricity that can be transferred into the power grid. Just one processor is said to generate enough water for 100,000 people.
The sewage processor currently sells for $1.5 million, and a pilot is being launched in Dakar, Senegal. While it may be years before the processor is adopted in more places, this innovation represents more than just a solution for drinking water. The business strategy is to sell the machine to local entrepreneurs which can purchase sewage –or the “fuel” to produce the water, thereby fueling the economies of local communities. The ambitions for this innovation are high –and while the machine is not a drug or a medical device, it has the potential to dramatically impact the health of the world’s population.
Where Are They Now
Three years after commencement of operation, the water purification system piloted in Senegal has received a license to enter the commercial market. The first model intended for commercial use will be shipped to another Senegalese site in early 2019. But rising unchecked discharge of untreated effluents into major water bodies continues to boost the demand for water purifiers in underdeveloped countries. For example, the Vietnam water purifier market is projected to grow at a CAGR of more than 12% over the next five years.