Shipping Container Water Purification Systems Help Communities in Need
Nearly one in ten people around the world do not have access to clean drinking water – that is 783 million people. Global warming is adding to the problem with rising sea levels meaning salt water can reach into previously safe water supplies, while increasingly violent storms wash impurities into water supplies. One solution to rectifying this problem is through water purification systems that can now easily fit in a shipping container, dropped into a location and set up in just a few hours.
Two types of water purification system
There are two types of water purification systems commonly used around the world, the reverse osmosis system and the distillation system.
The reverse osmosis system has a semi-permeable membrane through which the source water is pumped and it ‘filters out’ bacteria, many salts and impurities that would otherwise make the water unsafe. Importantly it doesn’t stop viruses. For very dirty water you will need to mechanically filter the water of suspended solids first in order to reduce the energy needed to clean it, and this can mean you need a separate unit.
Distillation systems make very pure water through heating it to exactly 100 degrees C and then condensing the water vapour in a separate container. This can be done to even the filthiest bog water and you will still have something to drink. It requires more energy than osmosis.
There is such a thing as water that is ‘too clean’. According to one health website, “Almost without exception, people who consume distilled water exclusively, eventually develop multiple mineral deficiencies…Distilled water tends to be acidic and can only be recommended as a way of drawing poisons out of the body. Once this is accomplished, the continued drinking of distilled water is a bad idea.” In short, water needs impurities to be safe for the body to drink or it will clean the body out of the minerals it needs to function!
Coca Cola ‘Ekocentre’
Though the company has been accused of drying up some communities’ drinking water wells for its soft drink plants, Coca Cola is actively helping other communities around the world by distributing its Ekocentre water purification plants in developing countries. The soft drinks giant has developed a 20ft shipping container water distillation system that can produce 850 litres of water a day for around 1kWh of energy. One shipping container wind turbine could produce 42,500 litres of pure water a day, and this could help a very large community.
The Ekocentre units also form a type of community hub, providing solar powered battery charging and wireless internet to villages that would otherwise do without. This arguably gets isolated communities connected to the world and with the internet, can help some bring in some extra money. When the project was launched in 2013 the scheme planned to produce 500 million litres of water a day for communities in the developing world. As of today it produces 50 million litres a day in Africa…
There are a number of companies around the world that produce shipping container based water purification systems. Let’s focus on ELW, one of the biggest brands for water purification in Africa.
ELW Global is a major shipping container water purification system producer. While it has mobile field water cleaning systems for disaster relief, it actually uses shipping containers as a permanent solution. The water purification systems are built in a factory and installed in shipping containers before being transported to their destination community wherever in the world they need to go. The larger systems being built by ELW will involve multiple units that are put together on site.
Unlike Coca Cola, ELW doesn’t do this as part of ‘corporate responsibility’ to cleanse its conscience. It is a commercial operation and sells its units to UN and disaster relief organisations around the world. It is a profit making organisation that has a very good and very necessary purpose for the communities it serves. One of its biggest customers is the South African Defence Force that helps neighbouring nations such as the Democratic Republic of Congo that has been in anarchy for many years.
Benefits of shipping container water purification
As with building modular houses, there are real benefits to making water purification plans in shipping containers. The water purification system can be built in a factory setting by a range of expert technicians who would otherwise have to go into the field to do their job, costing far more in the process.
There is a lower capital cost of building in a factory and, since the system is built in a few shipping containers, the combined unit is very small. Being mobile, it can be sent anywhere that a flatbed truck can reach – you’d be surprised how good truckies are at getting to even the remotest spots in the world!
For containerised water filtration or another second hand container project….
Gateway Container Sales has hundreds of used shipping containers for purchase or hire. We also have an on-site workshop for making a variety of container modifications. Contact us if you have an idea for a shipping container project and our team will be happy to help.