Africa Water Purification


I don't know if this is the place for this or not but here goes.

As a few of you know I have been spending some time east Africa the past few years. My church has gotten heavily involved in building orphanages, clinics, and schools in Kenya. Right now we feed 1,100 orphans a day and house over 600 in 7 different locations. We also have two new orphanages under construction.

I was there in Oct and I will be back this summer leading a group. Recently while in a meeting discussing the various projects we have going we started discussing water purification for several of the areas we have feeding stations, orphanages, and clinics. Our preference is that we use deep well water wells but this is not always possible. Several of the areas in the mountain regions have good, reliable water, but it is not safe to drink.

So I would like to start a discussion on water purification for 100 + people in a developing country.

What I am looking for is a reliable system that can be made and or purchased in country and would not be hard to fix and or get parts for. I am not as worried about up front costs as I am reliability. We have developed a good network of people willing to pay initial upfront costs but it is useless if the system is expensive to maintain or use. Our goal is a system that can be as self sustainable as possible. What we need is a system to put in our orphanages to provide clean drinking water. Each orphanage houses from 60-115 people and already has a rainwater collection system and full solar power. Some are close to wood gathering places for fuel others are not, some are close to towns, some are not. All are in Kenya and we want every one of them to have clean water for the children.

Can you help?
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Supporting Sponsor, Overland Certified OC0018
This may not be what your looking for, but I read that in Kenya they are taking contaminated well water and putting it in clear plastic bottles. Then placing the bottles on corrugated roofs for 48 hours.

A mix of the temperature and UV kills all contaminates and makes the after safe to drink.

Cheap, easy, African solutions in comparison to high tech, expensive, complex Western solutions.

Jonathan Hanson

Supporting Sponsor
Katadyn makes an expedition filter that has been proven all over the world. Expensive but durable and reliable. I think it produces about a gallon per minute. Essentially the only thing it wouldn't take care of are viruses.


Supporting Sponsor, Overland Certified OC0018
Katadyn makes an expedition filter that has been proven all over the world. Expensive but durable and reliable. I think it produces about a gallon per minute. Essentially the only thing it wouldn't take care of are viruses.
"August 28, 2008—Just 48 hours of sunlight can kill germs that cause cholera, typhoid, and other diseases—a discovery that's already helping Kenya's poor."

Yea of little faith
It's the UV light that kills the germs. It's the same principle as the steri pen (SP) some places sell.

Martyn, I learned about that trick from a missionary a few years back. He swore by it.

Jonathan Hanson

Supporting Sponsor
Okay. I read several studies on this and I see the potential. Mea culpa. However, those studies point out many variables, ambiguities, and outright failures as well. Turbidity of the water, transparency of the container, etc. The advantage of devices such as the Steri Pen is that the UV is concentrated and applied directly in the water.

It's definitely worth further study.
As intriguing as the practice is I have trouble thinking it would be able to serve 100 people on a daily basis.

Unless you could just take the theory and expand on it.....say several large “solar vats” somehow made to multiply the UV effects on a large scale. IDK


Expedition Leader
For What It's Worth ...

The various groups who have looked at this problem in the CAR have found 30-40M wells to be the only cost/maintenance effective solution. Unlike Kenya, there is no shortage of water in the CAR - it just that all surface and shallow well water is contaminated.

There are several international and private groups who drill. One of the most successful is linked here:

You might want to contact Jim and discuss things with him.

N.B. I spent a year looking at, among other things, water in East Africa. Be very, very careful where you drill. Too many wells draw from non replenishing aquifers leading to this deadly cycle:

-- Drill well - clean water available.
-- People and animals move into area because of availability of clean water.
-- Years later, well runs dry.
-- Animals die, people cannot leave because of land right/use issues.

Bottom line - don't drill a well unless you know that the aquifer will replenish.

These people have an interesting concept, but, sadly for me, are reluctant to consider working in the harder parts of Afica.
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Excellent information on aquifer replenishment, a field hydrologist should be able to provide a basic analysis relatively quickly and affordably. Unfortunately, they are not always right (look at the Ogallala Aquifer of the Great Plains for a good example of this).

Another thing to consider with the plastic bottle methods, you might want to make the switch to glass, there have been several studies into the breakdown and release of toxins within cheap plastic bottles that are reused.