More than 884 million people around the world don’t have regular access to clean drinking water. And when natural disasters, like floods, earthquakes or tsunamis, strike, thousands more people can’t get clean, safe water.

In Pakistan, where the worst floods in the country’s history started about two weeks ago, more than three million children are at risk of diseases carried by contaminated water.

Timothy Whitehead, an industrial designer from the United Kingdom, recently came up with an award-winning solution to the worldwide problem of contaminated drinking water.

Whitehead invented a water bottle filtration system, called the “Pure” water filtration bottle, which claims to not only filters out dirt particles, but also kills 99.9 per cent of illness-causing organisms found in water.

He came up with his idea while travelling around Zambia. There, he saw first-hand how difficult it could be for people to find safe drinking water and thought that modern technology could help.

Did You Know? Zambia’s Central Statistical Office estimates that only 59 per cent of urban households and 43 per cent of rural households have access to clean water.

The Pure bottle uses two chambers: dirty water is poured into the outside chamber and then the inner chamber is plunged through the water to filter out any particles. Once the water is filtered, a wind-up ultraviolet light is used to sterilized the water within 90 seconds. The ultraviolet light attacks the DNA of viruses or bacteria, preventing them from reproducing. Upon testing, one of the prototypes of the Pure bottle showed to have killed 99.9 per cent of the viruses and bacteria in the water sample.

Did you know? For his invention of the Pure bottle, Whitehead won the UK leg of the James Dyson Award for people who try to solve everyday problems.

In developing countries and in emergency situations, water is often purified with chlorine or iodine tablets, which can take up to 30 minutes to work and leave a funny taste in the water. The Pure bottle works much faster than both chlorine and iodine and doesn’t change the taste of the water.

Did you know? Diseases that can be spread through in contaminated water include hepatitis A, polio, SARS, gastroenteritis, typhoid, dysentery, cholera and E. coli infection.

The Pure bottle is portable, easy to use and, most importantly, doesn't require electricity to purify water. In less than two minutes, it could make contaminated water safe to drink. It’s a refreshing solution to a global problem — and all it took was a little thinking about how modern technology could solve a centuries-old problem.

Learn more

Article first published on August 26, 2010.

Vanessa Caldwell

My job is to write about business, science and technology at MaRS Discovery District, a place in Toronto that helps entrepreneurs turn their research and ideas into businesses. My last job was at a science museum, where I did the following things: wrote the words for animations and exhibits, blew stuff up, played with robots, froze things in liquid nitrogen and, sometimes, dressed in a space suit. When I'm not working, I like experimenting in the kitchen (also known as cooking), knitting, riding my bicycle and daydreaming. 

Comments are closed.