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Desalination 251 (2010) 106113

Development of a mobile water maker, a sustainable way to produce safe drinking water in developing countries
L. Groendijka , H.E. de Vriesb
a

Department of Environmental and Water Technology, Van Hall Larenstein, Part of Wageningen University and Research, Post Box 1528, 8901 BV Leeuwarden, The Netherlands Tel. 31 58 2846215; Fax 31 58 2846423 email: leo.groendijk@wur.nl b Aquario Water management BV, Smidsstraat 7, 8601 WB Sneek, The Netherlands Tel. 31 515 482811; Fax 31 515 424156 email: info@aquario.nl, www.mobilewatermaker.com
Received 31 January 2008; revised accepted 15 May 2008

Abstract Moreover, there is a growing demand for a simple, low capacity drinking water treatment used by local people in developing countries to reduce mortality caused by water born diseases. To solve this problem a small portable water treatment unit with a production capacity of approximately 500 L/day was developed. The unit can operate without the use of external electricity/ pumps/generators in order to operate completely independent. The mobile water treatment unit uses tubular ceramic membranes in combination with an anodic oxidation process, powered by a solar power panel. The membranes are cleaned by simple flushing without the use of chemicals and this enables a sustainable production of safe drinking water on every location in the world without replacing polluted filter cartridges. Laboratory tests with several kinds of surface water and effluent of a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) showed a very stable production and gave very good results in the removal of sediments, colloidal material, bacteria and viruses. Keywords: UF membrane filtration; Disinfection; Solar energy; Sustainable Mobile Water Maker

1. Introduction Unsafe drinking water is the main contribution to an estimated 4 billion cases of diarrhea each year, causing 1.8 million deaths mainly among children younger than 5 years [1]. Even at locations where water is safe at the source, it is often contaminated during tapping,

Corresponding author.

collection, storage and use unless it is protected by residual disinfection. Safe drinking water is more and scarcer because of the growing demand and diminishing resources in a lot of developing countries. Also the growth of population causes problems in the availability of clean and safe drinking water. Besides the amount of water, also the water quality is a growing problem because the lack of good

Presented at the Water and Sanitation in International Development and Disaster Relief (WSIDDR) International Workshop Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, 2830 May 2008.
0011-9164/0x/$ See front matter # 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.desal.0000.00.000

L. Groendijk, H.E. de Vries / Desalination 251 (2010) 106113 sanitation. Contamination of water sources by feces and other excrements is a very serious problem in developing countries. With the use of ultra filtration (UF) membranes, combined with disinfection, bacteria and viruses are removed from the water resulting in safe drinking water free from water borne diseases. Main research question is how to design a good stand-alone membrane filtration system which operates without the use of pumps, electricity and chemical cleaning agents for the membranes so that the system can work independent from the delivery of spare parts and electrical generators. A lot of systems are available but most of times you are depending on disposable filters, cartridges or disinfecting or membrane cleaning chemicals [6]. The main problem with membrane filtration systems is fouling of the membranes. Bio-fouling, cake formation, pore blocking and adsorption of fouling substances are serious problems which are generally solved with the use of several techniques like mechanical and chemical cleaning. For mechanical cleaning periodical backwash combined with cross flow, air flush and forward flush steps are generally used. Chemicals for cleaning are often not available so this technique can cause problems because the lack of these chemicals in the country. Also the costs of cleaning agents are very high. Beside this biological contamination which is fully removed, there is also the possibility of chemical pollution in the feed water. In this research this aspect is not considered because this needs treatment with use of, for example, activated carbon or high energy demanding reverse osmosis filtration. If the water is polluted with harmful toxic chemicals the unit will not be producing safe water.

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At the end a 40 nm tubular ceramic membrane module (Hyflux Ceparation) was selected for further research because of the easy way of cleaning this membrane and her mechanical strength. Hollow fibers, operated outside in appeared very difficult to clean after only a few hours of production. Flat sheet Kubota submerged membranes clogged very quickly and were difficult to clean without continuous air scouring or mechanical brushing. The UF membrane unit was operated in a dead-end configuration which means that all the water which enters the module has to pass the membrane. Particles bigger than the pore size of the membrane are retained inside the membrane tubes in the module. The study was carried out with a feed water storage tank at a level of 3 m above the membrane filtration unit which results in a constant Trans Membrane Pressure (TMP) of 0.3 bar. In the lab experiments, feed water was supplied from a 6 m3 underground storage tank outside the building. The level in the feed water tank was kept constant by a level controller which could switch on/off a centrifugal pump connected to the storage tank. A drawing of the test unit is shown in Fig. 1. All the valves, including the clean water tap, are manually operated by hand. The bicycle pump is connected by a quick fit connector to the air pressure container. The pressure indicator on this container is not drawn in the figure. The control box is controlling the charging of the battery with the solar power panel and also controls the disinfection level of the filtered water. 2.1. The feed water The water used in the tests was surface water from the Prinses Margriet channel near the city of Leeuwarden. Besides surface water, tests were also done with effluent from the WWTP of the city of Leeuwarden. Before the raw feed water was pumped from the outdoor underground storage tank into the water supply tank inside the laboratory it passed a raw filter nylon screen of 0.13 mm to remove big particles from the water such as leaves, frogs, fishes, snails and other material which could clog the membrane inlet tubes. The membrane unit was connected to the raw water storage with use of 40 mm hoses. The unit was provided with three valves in order to be able to clean the membranes with a backwash and forward flush (see Fig. 1).

2. Experimental setup In the laboratory of Van Hall Larenstein, a membrane filter test unit including an anodic oxidation unit was built up in sections. The feed water was supplied via a tank a few meters above the module. The unit was tested with polluted water from different sources. Various UF membranes with a pore size between 10 and 100 nm were tested with respect to their fouling behavior.

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Feed water storage bag/ tank 50 300 l

Valve

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Fig. 1. Experimental laboratory test set up.

2.2. Membrane module The membranes used in the test were Hyflux Ceparation ceramic tubular UF membranes [2]. Pore size is 40 nm and clean water permeability according to the specification of the supplier 500 l/m2 h bar. The inner tube diameter is 2.8 m. The membrane module contained 210 tubes with an effective length of 43 cm resulting in a membrane area of 0.8 m2 [2]. The membrane insert was built in a normal PVC housing, built up from general available sewer PVC materials. If the production tap is closed, the permeate vessel besides the unit is filled by gravity and in this way about 10 L of permeate becomes available for a backwash flush. A back flush is a high permeate water flow through the pores of the membrane to the raw water side in the tubes. Production is inside out and backwash is outside in.

2.3. The disinfection unit The permeate of the membrane unit flows to a 2Bsure disinfection unit, working as anodic oxidation system. This 2Bsure unit was developed by Bright Spark, Joure, The Netherlands. A couple of electrodes are built in a PVC pipe and this reactor is responsible for the disinfection of the water. The disinfection unit is powered by a 6 V battery. The 2Bsure unit is switched on when the water tap is opened, so in case no water is produced, no electricity is used. The permeate from the membrane filtration unit was treated with use of anodic oxidation. During this process an electrical field (low voltage) between two electrodes, a cathode () and anode () will generate some chemical reactions. In the water also some chloride is present.

L. Groendijk, H.E. de Vries / Desalination 251 (2010) 106113


Table 1 Procedure of operating the unit 08.00 am Pulsed backwash with permeate combined with a feed water forward flush 08.03 am Start production of permeate during the day with continuous filtration or sometimes with an start stop program that simulates the use by a person several times a day 17.00 pm Stop production, closure of the tap water valve 17.00 pm8.00 am Relaxation during the night till pulsed backwash at 8.00 in the morning

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3. The tests 3.1. Laboratory tests The filtration unit is operated during 10 h a day to simulate the operation in practice (see Table 1). In the morning the module is first backwashed with a little amount of permeate from the housing of the membrane module. The driving force for this backwash is generated by an air pulse from a compressed air container in the unit. The compressed air container is pumped up to a pressure of about 46 bar with use of a hand powered bicycle pump. During the forward flush with feed water a few pulses compressed air are released to the permeate side of the membrane. During this backwash the water tap is closed so the permeate will be pumped backwards to the feed side of the membrane. After this hydraulic cleaning step, the unit is switched on for production. During the day some interruptions in the production are simulated by closing the tap valve. The permeate flow out of the unit is measured and registered automatically with a magnetic flow meter. This meter is calibrated by hand with a flask and a stopwatch. The signal of the magnetic flow meter is recorded in a data logger and stored in an excel file. Samples of the feed water and the permeate were analyzed by the Dutch Water Company Vitens. Samples of the permeate were taken before and after disinfection. The running time is limited to 10 h a day and the filtration tests went on for about 52 weeks. The course of the permeate flow during the filtration runs gives an indication for the fouling behavior of the membranes. The concentrate or brine was drained into the sewer.

At the anodic reaction chloride (Cl) en hydroxide (HO) ions flow towards the anode where they will oxidize. At the anode chloride and hydroxyl radicals will be formed which combine to the disinfectant hypochlorous acid (HOCl), a strong and fast-acting oxidizer. Microorganisms will be damaged by the HOCl. The HOCl kills a variety of germs and is therefore widely used to disinfect drinking water. A further advantage is that the germs do not become resistant to the sodium hypochlorite. The disinfectant returns only to his original form (NaCl) when the radical oxygen atom is exchanged. Advantage of disinfection with HOCl is that there is also a post-disinfection after the water will leave the Mobile Water Maker. Storage tanks and bottles are disinfected with the produced water and recontamination will be reduced [3,4].

3.2. Field tests In October 2006, a first prototype of the unit was used for a short field test for 2 weeks at Restaura&ion, a village at the Dominican Republic (Fig. 2). A group of field workers of World Servants Europe, young people in the age of 2030 years, tested the unit under field conditions. During this field test a lot of practical problems were encountered and the results were used to improve the prototype. The feed water came from the river beside the camp and the quality of the feed water was varying a lot because of heavy rain weather from time to time.

2.4. Energy for disinfection The energy, needed for the anodic oxidation is generated by a solar panel of 15 pW. This 12 V solar panel charges a battery in the system which will store enough energy for a few days of production. So the system is self supporting with energy. If 220 V AC is available the unit can be charged and operated without solar energy. Also an external 12 V car battery can be used.

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Fig. 2. On the left picture the first Mobile Water Maker prototype during the field test in Restaura&ion in the Dominican Republic in October 2006. On the right picture the second prototype in November 2007 [5].

In the first water maker, the solar panel was integrated in the housing of the unit. This meant that the unit must be placed in the sunshine during the day. Now the panel is separated from the water maker; it is connected with a 20 m long cable to the unit so the unit can be installed inside a building. The electrical unit in the housing caused also problems because of the inflow of rainwater during stormy weather and heavy rainfall that was not foreseen. So the electrical circuit was better insulated in the next prototype. Also the transport of a few hundred liters of water to the vessel at 3 m height appeared a hard job. For that reason a simple hand pump with a capacity of 30 L/min is incorporated in the unit.

4. Results 4.1. Filtration tests with effluent water The membrane and disinfection units were tested in the laboratory during 4 months with effluent water as feed water. This effluent was stored in 6 m3 underground storage tank and pumped up to the feed vessel at 3 m height above the filtration unit. As can be seen in Figs. 35 there is a slow decrease in permeate production rate during the day. At the end of the day the unit was stopped and after relaxation during the night the production was started again in the morning with a pulsed backwash and forward flush. This relaxation and cleaning operation appeared sufficient to increase the production rate again to the initial
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Fig. 3. The production rate during a standard day, 21/11/ 2006. Filtration starts at 8 am is started with a pulsed backwash combined with forward flush.

Fig. 4. The production rate in case the filtration is started at 8 am without a pulsed backwash on 22/04/2006 and without a forward flush. Production rate is lower without the backwash.

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Fig. 5. Filtration is started on 23/04/2006 with a combined pulsed backwash and forward flush. During the day at 14.00 pm an extra pulsed backwash and forward flush was carried out but did not have the right effect.

value of the day before. This indicates that the fouling which is build up on top and/or inside of the membranes during the continuous filtration is reversible and easy to remove. Obviously, a flux of 60 L/m2 h (permeability 250 L/ 2 m h bar) is easy to handle for ceramic membranes with this kind of feed solution. A permeability of 250 L/m2 h bar on effluent is only a factor 2 lower than the clean water permeability of the membrane. This is also an indication of the low fouling behavior under these process conditions. Figs. 35 show the influence of the relaxation period during the night and the hydraulic backwash and
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forward flush on the production rates. The measurements show the filtration behavior for three subsequent days with a constant influent water quality. After the initial start up on the day, the production rate gradually decreases from 1.5 to 1 L/min. Comparing Figs. 3 and 4 it is shown that the initial backwash and forward flushes give raise to higher production rates during the day. Intermediate pulsed backwash flushes do not give rise to higher production rates (see Fig. 5). Relaxation over a prolonged period of time followed by a combined forward and backwash flush seem the best procedure for long-term sustainable operation. Optimum time for relaxation and hydraulic cleaning are not yet investigated. Fig. 6 shows the initial (morning) and final (afternoon) flow rates during 2 months of operation with surface water. It can be seen that the initial flow rates are stable over this period (flow at 30/11/2006: 72 L/h; flow at 30/01/2008: 72 L/h). At some days lower values are obtained. This is caused by skipping the pulsed backwash but only doing a forward flush in the morning. Later this procedure was improved by adding the pulsed back flush again and the original initial flow rates were established again. If a backwash after relaxation is not carried out the production rate stays low. This is visible in the end of Fig. 6.

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L. Groendijk, H.E. de Vries / Desalination 251 (2010) 106113


Table 2 The analytical results of the influent (surface water) and produced water Sample Influent surface water 8.5 17 213 100 51 9.5 Permeate after disinfection 8.5 18 223 <0.2 49 10.1 Rejection (%) >99.8 4

4.2. Chemical and biological analyses of the laboratory tests The influent water and purified water is analyzed periodically by the Vitens water company laboratory. All samples are taken with a disinfection rate which resulted in a 0.2 mg/L free chlorine in the produced water. In Table 2 the results of the test with surface water are presented. 5. Conclusions The Mobile Water Maker can be used to produce drinking water from biological polluted surface water. Besides membrane filtration a disinfection step with using in line anodic oxidation for the production of hypochlorite is used in the treatment process. This disinfection also results in a post-disinfection of the water collection containers. Rejections of all kind of bacteria are high (>99%). More accurate removal efficiencies can not be presented because the initial influent values for the content microorganisms are not counted exactly. Only results as >1000 are presented by the laboratory. The turbidity of the permeate is very low, indicating that the permeate is a clear solution without particles. The CFU of the permeate sample is <100/mL. The WHO standard is <100/mL [1]. The mean indicator for faecal pollution E. coli says that there is a total removal of these bacteria. In the permeate the amount of Adsorbed Organic Halogenated Compounds (AOX) increased through the use of anodic oxidation. The free chlorine concentration in the permeate is 0.2 mg/L so it will indicate that the bacteria will be killed [5]. A sufficient relaxation period and a pulsed hydraulic backwash and forward flush are sufficient to prevent the ceramic membranes against fouling. A hydraulic cleaning combined with a backwash is not sufficient if a relaxation time of several hours is left. Long-term test show no decrease of flow rate caused by any fouling during 1 year of operation, even with some breaks without production in summer holiday (4 weeks) and Christmas holiday (3 weeks). No chemicals and electricity from generators have to be used. A 15 peak Watt solar panel used at 1 day sunshine is big enough to provide enough back up energy for 3 days water production. With a 0.8 m2 ceramic tubular UF module, a water column of 3.5 m is sufficient to

pH Temperature HCO3 (mg/L) Turbidity (FTE) Color (mg Pt/Co/L) Dissolved oxygen (mg/L) Sulfate (mg/L) Coli forms 37 C (#/100 mL) Escherichia coli (#/100 mL) Clostridia (#/100 mL) Aeromonas 30 C (#/100 mL) CFU 22 C (#/mL) Bacteriophages (pve) Na (mg/L) Fe (mg/L) Mn (mg/L) AOX (mg/L) TOC (mg/L) DOC (mg/L) Free Cl2 (mg/l)

59 >275 >600 >300 >600

64 <1 <1 <1 <1

>99.7 >99.8 >99.7 >99.8

>1000 <1 73 2.96 0.148 49 19 26 0

23 <1 71.2 <0.02 <0.01 77 13 13 0.2

>97.7 2.5 >99.3 >99.3 57 31.5 50

produce continuously 60 L/h. In more than 2 years no parts have been replaced or repaired so the system seems to be very reliable. A prototype of the complete system is produced. The technical features are presented in Table 3 [5]. The produced water has an excellent quality and, if no chemical pollutants are present, the water meets the WHO standard for drinking water [1]. In combination with a built in activated carbon filter stage the chemical pollutants can be removed from the produced permeate. To avoid necessary

L. Groendijk, H.E. de Vries / Desalination 251 (2010) 106113


Table 3 Features of the prototype Mobile Water Maker Technical specifications: 300600 L/day (10 h) 2W 20 pW 7 Ah Additional external 220 V AC Additional external 12 V DC (XLR 3 pin connector male) Solar panel connector (XLR 3 pin connector male) Premium filter Ceramic Tubular Filter HC08 Disinfection module Bright Spark Module 2BSafe 1 L/min Regeneration time Once at every 24 h Recovery 98% Tube fittings GEKA fast fit connectors Body of the case Polymer Foamed Hood Flight case material Alumina and stainless steel Dimensions H D W (75 40 40) cm Color case Blue, grey, red, black Weight 22 kg Wheels 2 rubber wheels 100 mm Accessories 40 mm rubber coated flexible tubes Water source Surface water, biologically polluted Treatment efficiency: E. coli 37 >99.999% E. coli >99.999% Enterococs >99.99% Total count 22 C >99.99% Total count 37 C >99.99% Chlorine in treated water <0.2 ppm Turbidity <1 NTU Production capacity Power consumption Solar panel capacity Battery capacity Electrical connectors:

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replacement of any carbon filters during operation this technique is not applied because most water born diseases are caused with using biological polluted water.

Acknowledgements
This research was funded by Technology Centre North Netherlands in 20062008. The author wishes to thank Prof. Dr. Walter van der Meer from Vitens Water Company (analyses), Harry van Dalfsen from Hyflux Ceparations Liquid (ceramic module) Tjerk Kaastra from Bijl en de Jong (membrane housing) and Maurice Tax from Bright Spark (2Bsure disinfection unit) for the support during this feasibility research. Dr. Arie Zwijnenburg from Wetsus Technological Top Institute Water is thanked for the stimulating discussions about membrane filtration and his contribution to this paper.

References
[1] http://www.who.int, March 2008. [2] http://www.ceparation.com, February 2008. [3] http://www.gallep.nl/ppt/2B_Sure_UK.ppt, February 2008. [4] http://www.brightspark.nl, February 2008. [5] http://www.mobilewatermaker.com, February 2008. [6] Water purifier essential for hurricane preparedness, J. Membr. Technol., September 2006.