Mixed oxidant technology treats water in Rwanda, developing countries


Plagued by a legacy of civil war, ethnic genocide and the HIV/AIDS epidemic, many rural communities in Rwanda lack access to adequate drinking water. Although many inhabitants purify water by boiling, this time-consuming and energy-intensive practice is impractical for most.

A water and power utility provides drinking water to the capital, Kigali City, and all urban centers of Rwanda, while rural areas are supplied by natural springs or surface water sources. In many rural areas of the country, taps are accessible every few kilometers along most major and secondary roads, but water quality is inconsistent.

Furthermore, despite the wide availability of piped water, much is still collected from rivers and streams and there are a variety of concerns with the water quality in the region, including pathogenic bacteria, viruses and protozoa. Not all residents can afford or have access to the wood or charcoal needed to boil water, so the risk of infection is high.

At the Sonrise School in the Shyira Diocese in Musanze, Rwanda’s most mountainous district and home of Dianne Fosse’s famous mountain gorillas, volunteer Mark Henjum trained residents to generate mixed-oxidant solution onsite to safely and quickly disinfect water for drinking, washing and cleaning applications. The chlorine-based solution is generated quickly and effectively with just salt water and electricity using a MIOX brine pump system (BPS).

The antiquated process at Sonrise School

The kitchen staff at Sonrise School once needed to boil about 265 gallons of water over wood fires each day. They had to physically carry vats of boiling hot water to pour into 80-gallon barrels used to store water that is drawn for washing and drinking. In the past few years, there have been two incidents in which kitchen workers suffered serious burn injuries from the scalding water.

Chlorine powder is available in Rwanda, but only in Kigali, and at a high cost, since the powder is imported. As a result, boiling is considered the only viable solution for water disinfection in this scenario.

However, boiled water with no chlorine residual is susceptible to recontamination once the water has cooled. In addition to the immediate risk posed to community members, the non-managed harvesting of limited resources for fuel has led to soil erosion and other problems associated with nutrient loss.

Emmanuel Ignance, the school’s full-time water manager, received a sand filter/chlorine tablet disinfection system from a charitable organization. However, because the school’s plumbing is not adequate to pressurize the sand filter with enough capacity to carry water for the kitchen, laundry, showers, taps and for drinking, the unit is presently offline while the school awaits a plumbing upgrade. In addition, only expensive imported chlorine tablets are available.

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