Desert nomads marvel at water purifying device

Apr 02, 2013 by Jalal Al-Makhfi
Scientists show a nomad (in reflection) how to assemble a "waterpod" near the village of M'Hamid El Ghizlane in Zagora on March 16, 2013. The "waterpod" allows desert-dwellers to turn water extracted from wells into clean drinking water through evaporation and condensation.

Omar Razzouki gazes intently at the wooden box, marvelling at what might be the solution to the perennial water woes that he and other nomads like him across the Sahara desert face daily.

More than 330 million people in , or around 40 percent of the population, do not have access to clean drinking , according to a report published to mark world water day by British NGO WaterAid.

The estimates that this lack of drinking water is the reason for nearly nine out of every 10 deaths linked to .

In the Sahara, nomads are among those suffering most from limited access to water, particularly during the hotter periods when rising salt levels in water drawn from wells make it undrinkable.

The "nomadic festival" held earlier this month in M'Hamid, in Morocco's southern desert region, was an opportunity for the pioneers of a portable device to showcase their invention.

It uses a process as old as the sky.

A nomad pours water into a "waterpod" near the village of M'Hamid El Ghizlane in Zagora on March 16, 2013. In the Sahara, nomads are among those suffering most from limited access to water, particularly during the hotter periods when rising salt levels in water drawn from wells make it undrinkable.

"It's simple. It emulates the natural cycle of cloud condensation," explained Alain Thibault, an ex-sailor who had to confront the issue of fresh at sea.

The experience gave him the idea several years ago of reproducing the process using just a "small machine that is easy to make and easy to use."

The "waterpod" allows desert-dwellers to turn water extracted from wells into clean through evaporation and condensation, using the heat of the sun, a technology that the Arabs were among the first to develop as far back as the 16th century.

The device, which resembles a large letter box, currently costs around 500 euros ($650).

But the inventors have already given courses at a college in Tiznit, on Morocco's Atlantic coast, to teach students how to produce them more cheaply.

"The waterpod is made of wood, cork, stainless steel and glass," said Thierry Mauboussin, who is helping to promote the water project in Morocco.

"It works with solar energy, so no fossil fuel."

A scientist shows a nomad how to assemble a waterpod near the village of M'Hamid El Ghizlane in Zagora on March 16, 2013. There are high hopes for the waterpod, one of which can produce six litres of pure water daily from 12 litres of brackish water, according to its creators.

Noureddine Bourgab, the president of the nomad festival at M'Hamid, also praised the environmental value of the new device, which he hoped could "put an end to the problem of salty water for the desert nomads."

"It's a technique that embodies the real meaning of sustainable development and protection of the environment," he said.

Razzouki, a nomad from the M'Hamid region, was concentrating hard on figuring out how the waterpod works.

"This could resolve many of our water problems," he said, noting that the box was light, and "we won't have the problem of salty water everywhere we go."

M'Hamid El Ghizlane, Morocco's gateway to the Sahara, is an oasis on the edge of the Draa valley surrounded by rolling sand dunes, 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the Algerian border.

The construction 40 years ago of a hydro-electric dam further up the valley to provide for the growing population and tourist trade at Ouarzazate, along with the relentless desertification of the region, has taken a heavy toll on water supplies.

So there are high hopes for the waterpod, one of which can produce six litres of pure water daily from 12 litres of brackish water, according to its creators.

They give it an estimated lifespan of 20 to 40 years, with just a daily clean needed to keep it in good condition.

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VendicarE
2 / 5 (4) Apr 02, 2013
A truly remarkable device that I invented decades ago when I was 10 years old.

I'm sure it was invented a couple of hundred years ago as well.

hemitite
4.3 / 5 (6) Apr 02, 2013
Old desert survival trick:
Dig an ~3' wide hole in the seds at the bottom of an arroyo. Place a small container in the center of the hole and cover said hole with a clear plastic sheet, securing the edges with a ring of rocks and/or dirt. Place a small rock or weight on the center of the sheet just above the container.

If their is any water in the soil near the surface, then it will condense on the inside of the plastic and run down the slope to the middle and so drip into the container.
ArtyNouveau
1 / 5 (5) Apr 02, 2013
Drinking distilled water will dilute your electrolytes. In time, doing so will kill you.
VendicarE
5 / 5 (4) Apr 02, 2013
"Drinking distilled water will dilute your electrolytes." - Arty

Then eat some sand.
Sinister1811
2.7 / 5 (7) Apr 02, 2013
If their is any water in the soil near the surface, then it will condense on the inside of the plastic and run down the slope to the middle and so drip into the container.


And if there's no water, then shouldn't they place crushed leaves underneath to extract the moisture? I've even heard of people using urine and waiting for it to evaporate. At least, I've seen that on an episode of Man Vs. Wild. Better than hoping for water in dry soil.