A sustainable and cost-effective water purification solution
To make this purification process a reality, Danish company 4Life Solutions (formerly known as SolarSack) has improved upon its SODIS method, a simple solar disinfection concept developed in the 1980s, which is recognised by the WHO and UNICEF. While SODIS uses the sun’s rays and PET bottles to make contaminated water safe, 4Life Solutions and its partner Bernhardt — which specialises in flexible plastic packaging — have designed a reusable plastic bag with innovative multilayered technology that combines durability and transparency, allowing the optimum spectrum of UV light to penetrate the water. Their SaWa bag (which stands for “Safe Water” and also means “OK” in Swahili) needs nothing more than the sun’s energy to eliminate 99.99% of the dangerous pathogenic bacteria present in contaminated water. Taking up very little space and weighing just 100 grams, it’s designed to be easy to use and transport, with handles, hanging devices and a tap. It can hold four litres of water, which will be purified after four hours in the sun. Reusable up to 500 times, one bag can produce up to 2,000 litres of drinking water in one year. For roughly three dollars a bag, people and communities with low incomes and no access to clean water can benefit from affordable, environmentally friendly access to drinking water. The 4Life Solution is, therefore, a vital solution to one of the planet’s biggest problems: providing safe drinking water without resorting to fossil fuels.
The SaWa bag is certified to the international safety and performance standards for water purification set by the WHO.
A huge impact on the environment and global health
Across the globe, 2.2 billion people don’t have access to safe drinking water. Serious diseases linked to the consumption of contaminated water, such as cholera, typhoid and dysentery, cost the lives of more than 2 million people a year.
Boiling water over a wood or charcoal fire is still the most common way to purify water. Still, it’s expensive and complicated, both in terms of purchasing charcoal and cooking equipment and accessing firewood. This method is unreliable for consumers, especially when carried out in confined spaces, and it’s harmful to the environment due to its contribution to CO2 emissions and deforestation.
First distributed in the Kyangwali refugee camp in Uganda in 2020, the SaWa solution is now present in over 500,000 households in India and 7 African countries. Approved by governments, health bodies and relevant ministries, it’s supported by numerous foundations and NGOs, and a SaWa programme has been set up in schools to educate children on the importance of drinking water as part of a healthy lifestyle. This solution can also be deployed quickly and easily in disaster zones without access to safe drinking water, preventing the spread of waterborne diseases. 4Life has set itself the long-term goal of bringing safe drinking water to 30 million people by 2030.