Scientists from the College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology (CEDAT), Makerere University with support from the government Research and Innovations Fund (RIF) have developed two point of use water filtration systems to increase access to safe and clean drinking water.
The innovations include a rice husk-based granular activated carbon (Granular Activated Carbon) for point-of-use water treatment system and a zeolite-based nanocomposite filters for drinking water.
Dr Robinah Kulabako, the Principal Investigator of the development of zeolite- based nanocomposite filters said that during the study, they discovered that zeolite has the potential to effectively remove water contaminants including heavy metals, bacteria including Escherichia coli (E. coli) oils, among other water contaminants.
She said that zeolite, mineral rocks that naturally detoxify the body and water are commonly found along the slopes of Mt Elgon in Eastern Uganda and some rocky parts of Western Uganda.
Dr Kulabako noted that during their study, the found that some water sources were contaminated with E-coli, an indication that water contains fecal matter from human beings or animals and must be treated to make it safe before consumption.
She said that if someone drinks water contaminated by e-coli bacteria, they may experience diarrhea, vomiting and nausea.
“We need water when it is safe but in real life, we find that there are many contaminants that are not visible to the eye but are a public health risk if the water is ingested. What we are looking at here are those parameters in the water that are health hazards, she explained.
“Some industrial wastes are inadequate are inadequately or not treated, agricultural run offs, pesticides, fertilizers all of which end up in the fresh water sources, leading to deteriorating quality of the water in terms of nutrients as well as heavy metals that are potentially associated with cancer and other disease causing organisms, “she added.
According to the Minister of Health, at least 14.6 million people, representing 32.4 percent of the total population, still practice open defecation.
Statistics from the ministry of water and environment indicate that at least 14 million Ugandans (about 30 per cent of the population) do not have access to clean and safe water.
According to UNICEF, water and sanitation are human rights, fundamental to every child and adult and that poor sanitation and hygiene, as well as unequal access to safe drinking water, make thousands of children very sick and at risk of death.
Dr Peter W. Olupot from the Mechanical Engineering Department whose study focused on the use of activated carbon from rice husks to treat water at point of use acknowledged that rice husks can be used to produce activated carbon that can be used in the treatment of water.
Dr Olupot encouraged those involved in promoting public water treatment systems to take advantage of the new innovations in addition to their protocols.
Dr Zahara Nampewo who represented Prof Fred Masagazi, the chairperson of MakRIF said the fund aims to increase the local generation of research that capable of addressing local problems.