« Completed Open Innovation Challenges

Contaminated Water Treatment "Tool Kit"

Status: Completed

Challenge Winners:

Keith McCarthy, Tom Kruer, Nick Horsien, Laura Lambright, Pradhyuan Singh Ranawat

Winning Solutions:

IdeaConnection’s solvers devised a smartphone app that maps out where water is contaminated and how it’s contaminated. The program also provides individuals anywhere in the world with details of close at hand organizations that can help with water treatment issues.

Clean water is the foundation for health – for prevention and control of waterborne diseases and for prevention of acute and chronic health problems from mercury, lead, arsenic, and chemical contaminants. Cost effective contaminated water treatments are critical for the 2.6 billion people currently without access to clean water. Over 10% of the global disease burden could be prevented by improved water quality.

Contaminants originate from five key sources: naturally occurring, from agricultural or industrial activities, human settlements, and water treatments themselves.

The Challenge

To design a portable tool kit for treating water for major contaminants (biological, organic, inorganic) that is effective, inexpensive, and easy to manufacture and use. The kit must be cost-effective for production and preferably can be assembled within local communities in developing regions.

Key Features

Specifically, the treatment tool kit must:
  1. Provide low-cost, effective water treatments or decontamination methods for:
    1. biological contaminants (e.g., bacteria and parasites from human or animal wastes),
    2. organic contaminants (e.g., pesticides, fossil fuels), and
    3. inorganic contaminants (e.g., nitrates from fertilizer run-off, metals).

  2. Use off-the-shelf, proven and, ideally, lowest-cost techniques, such as:
    • Filters (e.g., activated carbon filters)
    • Chemical treatments (e.g., bleach, chlorine, iodine, ozone)
    • Oxidation-reduction methods
    • Coagulants
    • Aeration
    • UV
    • Ion exchange
    • Reverse osmosis
    • Electrochemistry

Criteria for Success

Must Haves:

The treatment tool kit must be:
  1. Effective – Methods enable water treatment(s) for specific contaminants, including:
    1. Bacteria (e.g., E. coli, Campylobacter, Vibrio cholera, Leptospira spp., Salmonella)

    2. Parasites
      1. Ascaris lumbircoides – Parasitic worms, infecting up to 10% of the developing world population
      2. Onchocerca volvulus – Causes river blindness, affecting 18 million people worldwide
      3. Plasmodium spp. parasites – Causes malaria, 300-500 million people affected with over 1 million deaths per year
      4. Schistosoma spp. flatworms – Causes schistosomiasis, 220 million people infected, 600 million at risk

    3. Organic contaminants
      1. Pesticides
      2. Industrial wastes (e.g., solvents, dyes)
      3. Cyanobacterial toxins

    4. Inorganic contaminants
      1. Arsenic
      2. Lead
      3. Mercury
      4. Nitrates and nitrites

    5. Viruses (e.g., those causing encephalitis, hepatitis A)

  2. Legal – Meets relevant regulatory requirements;

  3. Straightforward – Easy to understand and use;

  4. Cost Effective – Relatively inexpensive to manufacture and use; and,

  5. Portable

Nice to Haves:

  • Modular (e.g., different methods/tools can be incorporated depending on the specific needs)
  • Green (e.g., environmentally-friendly, sustainable, reusable, recyclable)
  • Minimal risks of human error (e.g., by simplification as much as possible)
  • Universally applicable
  • Local production and distribution potential
  • Scalable
  • Open source (i.e., no licensing required).

Chemists Without Borders has a team of experts and available funding to carry out implementation of viable proposed solutions to this problem.

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