Clean water is necessary for our survival as humans, from hydration and food production to sanitation and healthy ecosystems. However, according to reports from the World Health Organisation and UNICEF, 2.2 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water services, with approximately 297,000 children under five dying every year from diseases linked to poor sanitation and unsafe drinking water. One of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals is to ensure everyone has access to clean water and sanitation around the world – a mission aided by innovative products like Henry Glogau’s solar distiller and Studio Forthemany’s JERRY filter.
Henry Glogau’s portable solar distiller uses principles learnt by many people in primary school science classes or survival training. A dual-layer plastic canopy sits atop a simple bamboo structure out in the sun. Seawater or polluted water stored in the bottom tarp layer is naturally warmed until it evaporates, leaving salt, dirt, and other contaminants behind. The clean, gaseous water condenses on the underside of the top tarp, with droplets flowing into a collection funnel and through a tap for easy access. Through this process, a canopy with a diameter of 2.4 metres can generate 18 litres of water a day!
Although the overall principle is well known, what makes Glogau’s design special – and worthy of the 2021 Lexus Design Award – is the use of cheap, transportable materials. The recent graduate of the Royal Danish Academy has created a prefabricated flat pack with a canopy and funnel that, with the addition of sticks and rubber bands, can be assembled into a distiller in around thirty minutes. To make it even more accessible, Glogau has also put together instructions for constructing a distiller from readily available local materials, allowing anyone to produce fresh water with a bottle and two plastic sheets.
With the challenges we will face in the near future, we need resilient and autonomous resource infrastructure for democratised access.
Meanwhile, the JERRY filter, designed by Olivier de Gruijter of Studio Forthemany, is a water filter prototype designed to fit onto jerry cans used to transport water in places without more complex infrastructure. Many of the filters currently used in such regions are integrated into large tanks, but JERRY is a portable device that slides easily into a common household item, making it easier to distribute and use on the go. The JERRY’s two-filter system eliminates 99.999% of bacteria and 99.9% of viruses from water while a self-cleaning mechanism means each device should be able to filter over 10,000 litres of water across its lifetime.
Another advantage of the JERRY filter is that its simple pump mechanism requires little force, meaning young children and the elderly can use it easily without assistance. The device is currently being piloted as part of an Oxfam program in a refugee camp in Iraq, with the hope that in the next five years, JERRY will provide safe drinking water for up to one million people.
Access to clean water is a global issue, so it’s going to take a global collaborative effort to make it a reality for every person, even in the most remote communities. Products like those designed by Glogau and de Gruijter are a great reminder that the simplest ideas can play a huge role in making our planet a better and more accessible place.
If you liked this article, you’ll be sure to enjoy our feature on innovative products looking towards the future.
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