Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania [East Africa] is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe.

Askwar Hilonga said the filter can combat various water problems. He is concerned that in Tanzania “70 percent of households, of 9 million households, are not using any kind of filter.”

The filter can absorb contaminants like copper, bacteria, viruses and pesticides, said Hilonga, who has been successfully trying out his product in Arusha.

It uses nanotechnology–manipulating matter to control individual atoms and molecules. Dirty water in buckets, connected to tubes, flows through sand to trap debris and harmful bacteria. A layer of “good” bacteria on top of the sand eats microbes that cause disease.  Additional nanomaterials remove chemicals and other pollutants.
“Before I had this filter,” said housewife Catherine Nanyaro, “I used to fetch water from the river, and sometimes I used it without boiling it because it is very time consuming to boil the water.  I had many problems, like typhoid, and other diseases from the water.”

At a primary school, one filter is cleaning many liters of water. “We have a river 50 meters from here, and we saw that it is not healthy,” teacher Elena Ramos said.  “Then we took water from the government supply, but we also saw that is was not going to be healthy.  And we wanted the best things for our kids, so we decided to buy the filter.”
Currently, each filter costs about 140 U.S. dollars. But Hilonga has received a U.S. government grant to help make his product more affordable and available commercially.