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solar water pasteurizers make safe drinking water in tanzania

"it's a very special gift as it allows us to assure our patients that they will not get sick from drinking the water at the hospital," writes mark l. jacobson, m.d., administrator of the selian lutheran hospital in arusha, tanzania, in a letter of thanks to safe water systems, after installation of the company's solar water pasteurizer, sol*saver.

"in our area, very few people have access to any kind of protected water source. most get their water from surface streams and runoff, and much of it is contaminated," writes jacobson. "now we can offer drinking water that is pasteurized. we are supplying all 115 beds in the hospital with drinking water from the single unit."

five sol*saver systems were purchased as part of a pilot project sponsored by colorado's greeley redeye rotary club, three other colorado rotary clubs, lutheran world relief and two colorado lutheran churches in an effort to bring safe drinking water to remote areas of tanzania, east africa.

in july 1996, john grandinetti, safe water systems president and sol*saver's inventor, traveled to tanzania to install the systems. three pasteurization units went to sites in or near arusha: selian lutheran hospital, maasai school for girls, and dareda agricultural development center (for use as a demonstration and training model). the other two were destined for the multi-village, 900-student okokola primary school; and the diaconical centre, a medical dispensary, aids counseling and orphan assistance facility in the village of mto wa mbu.

"the sol*saver systems come partially assembled, so it's easy and fast to install them," says grandinetti. "they have easy connect fittings and don't require a great deal of skill or a plumber." the systems will work properly without pumps as long as gravity provides enough pressure for the water flow, according to grandinetti.

one of the biggest roadblocks to providing clean drinking water in developing countries, according to grandinetti, is the availability of fire wood and the cost of boiling contaminated water. many people have no choice but to drink directly from polluted water sources.

unsafe drinking water is one of the leading health challenges in the world today:
* 80% of all infectious diseases in developing countries are transmitted through water
* as a result each year more four million children die

now there is a simple, effective and low-cost way to prevent needless disease and death. water can be made safe to drink using only the heat of the sun and the time-tested process of pasteurization. even sewage-laden water can be completely disinfected.

some are more fortunate. grandinetti visited the home of a school teacher who makes $160 a month to support herself plus a family of seven. she spends $10 a month, or 1/16th of her income, on charcoal fuel for cooking and boiling just two-and-a-half-gallons of water a day for her family. says selian hospital's jacobson, "electricity is very expensive for us. whether we are purchasing it or generating it ourselves, we pay about $.25 per kilowatt hour, making electrical costs a full ten percent of our budget. to boil drinking water for our patients with electricity would be prohibitively expensive."

stories like these are not uncommon in developing nations. grandinetti and hartzell plan to work with other groups who are interested in setting up their solar pasteurization systems worldwide. their goal is to provide a simple and cost effective way of disinfecting drinking water and making a positive difference in the lives of millions of people throughout the world.

after a customs office delay of almost a week, grandinetti was able to install three units-all donated by safe water systems as field-test demonstration models-in january, 1996, under the direction of the university of the valley of guatemala. one system was destined for the coastal village of morazan, a dry, sunny, desert-like area, and a three-hour drive south of guatemala city by four-wheel drive. before sol*saver was installed, illness and diarrhea caused by contaminated water were rampant, especially during the rainy season.

choosing a centrally located site to install the unit and its holding tanks posed a challenge since the village, which has no electricity, was laid out along narrow dirt pathways. grandinetti eventually settled on a suitable, elevated rocky area near one of the water spigots dotting the main trails. curious villagers pitched in and helped with the installation, which took 4-5 hours. "we talked at length with a villager who was in charge of the spring and its piping system," says grandinetti. "he will be the one responsible for maintaining the sol*saver system."

a second system was installed at an orphanage in the remote mountainous village of santa apolonia north of guatemala city. catholic nuns there had previously been buying firewood to boil drinking water for the children in their care. electricity was available, but just too expensive to use for pasteurizing water. the third guatemalan system was installed at a rotary sponsored orphanage in santa rosa.

grandinetti returned to guatemala three months after the two installations to check the systems and make necessary adjustments. "as the first units in the field, they're a source of valuable feedback," he says, "and in the meantime, they're providing clean drinking water for a lot of people."

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