Water purification in developing countries

According to statistics from the WHO, contaminated water accounts for around seven million deaths each year. 1.4 billion people (more than a fifth of the world’s population) suffer from a shortage of water and an insufficient supply of clean drinking water. Inhabitants of developing countries living in remote rural areas and communities on the outskirts of towns and cities are most affected.

In these countries, 80 percent of all diseases are caused by poor quality drinking water. It is estimated that approximately 50 percent of the world’s entire population will not have enough drinking water by 2050 as a result of environmental pollution, population growth and increased water consumption per head. These conditions have led to water purification and supply becoming hotly discussed topics worldwide.

The situation in developing countries is worsened by unreliable power grids, which do not even reach many areas. However, these regions have a particularly high potential for renewable energy (e.g. sun, wind) and decentralized power supply often presents a more cost-efficient alternative to grid connection.

Against this backdrop, Fraunhofer ISE develops desalination and disinfection systems powered by renewable energy and designed for rural areas or small islands. In addition to thermal processes, our desalination systems are based on two technologies in which we have specialist knowledge, namely reverse osmosis and electrodialysis.

Technologies used to desalinate and disinfect water have already been installed in numerous countries and work reliably on a large scale. However, many adjustments still need to be made in terms of their energy supply and minimizing maintenance requirements before they can be used successfully in the rural areas of developing countries.

We provide the full range of services needed for carrying out decentralized water purification: Development of efficient and low-maintenance disinfection and desalination technologies, cleaning procedures for membranes, decentralized renewable energy supply, creation and implementation of designs for introducing drinking water purification systems in the target regions, and the consideration of all of the technical, economic and socio-scientific aspects in terms of product and system development as well as market introduction.