Uganda Water Chlorination Project
Organized by: April Whitbeck
Safe drinking water is a problem for communities worldwide. In Uganda alone, 22 children die every day from diseases caused by drinking unsafe water. Recent advances in technology and Ugandan ingenuity have led to an opportunity to change things for the better. From a single car battery and a salt solution, enough chlorine can be produced to safely treat enough water for 100 people a day. We have successful built and tested a prototype and now is the time to prove the technology in the field at 4 remote Uganda villages. Much of Uganda is rural and very remote but most villages have access to hand-operated water wells. Unfortunately, the water wells are often sited downstream from the villages and consequently have high bacteria counts. The Ugandan people are smart and resourceful; the lack of central electricity has been overcome using a car battery. They connect a lamp to the car battery for light at night. Then during the day a solar panel recharges the battery. This reminded us of experiments we used to do in school – hooking up a 9 volt battery to a glass of water and splitting the water molecule into hydrogen and oxygen. Further pondering reminded us how chlorine is produced for many swimming pools – passing a current through a salt solution splitting the sodium ion from the chlorine ion and producing chlorine. We reasoned that it might be possible to do that very thing in a remote place like rural Uganda. So research began on the potential for building a chlorinator with a car battery, recharged by solar. It turns out the idea is not singular, but uncommon and other devices previously developed were not ideal for this community. Building off of that work, a very simple prototype made simply of a car battery, titanium electrodes, wiring, and a bucket of salt water was developed. It consistently produces a 2.2% chlorine solution overnight. 2.2% should be sufficient to disinfect the drinking water for about 100 people. One of the very important aspects of any new system is that it must be adapted to fit the culture in which it would be used. In this case, the chlorine produced is almost ideal for the purpose. The designated villager would hook the battery up to the salt solution at night before he/she goes to bed at a cost of about 10 minutes. In the morning, the chlorine would be made available to the villagers on the way to the well. About 6 teaspoons is sufficient to provide the 2 mg/l of chlorine recommended by WHO for disinfection. By the time the water jug is full and the villager has returned home, the required contact time of 30 minutes should be fulfilled and the water disinfected. Materials are available locally in Kampla for $300 per chlorine set-up. Upon the success of this venture, it should be easy to adapt it to the surrounding communities. Our goal is also to use this opportunity to create a micro business for a local villager where he could produce these chlorinators, sell them to local villages (providing income for his own family) and, very importantly, be in the local area to check and maintain the chlorinators over time to ensure their smooth continuous operation. We appreciate your support for this exciting project!