Solar Powered Solutions for Water Problems

Solar power and innovative technology can provide solutions to address global water and food shortages. Providence Trade and Development is dedicated to bringing these solutions to where they are needed most.

Water shortages and water contamination cause misery throughout the world.

According to the UNICEF,

  • A child dies every 15 seconds from disease attributable to unsafe drinking water, deplorable sanitation and poor hygiene.
  • A third of the world’s population is enduring some form of water scarcity.
  • One in every six human beings has no access to clean water within a kilometer of their homes.

“Unclean water spreads diseases such as cholera and infant diarrhea, which kill five million people per year, mainly children,” UNICEF states. “More than half of Africans suffer from such water-related diseases. And poor health harms children’s learning potential. For example, 400 million school-aged children a year are infected by intestinal worms that sap their cognitive abilities. “

Providence has partnered with visionary engineers and scientists who have designed solar powered water purification systems that can make clean, safe drinking water from a wide range of sources. These portable systems, powered entirely by the sun, purify polluted water from surface sources, contaminated wells, and brackish or even seawater. They do not require any fuel.

These water purification systems save lives.

The systems have solar panels (Photovoltaic cells) that move automatically to track the movement of the sun, for maximum efficiency. Water is drawn from the source through a “straw” by a pump that is powered by the solar panels. The submersible pump pushes the water through a filtration system that may, depending on the need, include reverse osmosis. The water is forced through a series of filters that remove pollutants. The water then passes through a tube, where it is exposed to ultraviolet light. Any microorganisms present in the water are rendered inactive by the UV light, and therefore harmless. The result is safe water.

Developments by Providence partners in solar power, pump design, and filter membrane technology have produced systems that can be deployed in a few hours and produce clean water for many years. These remarkable water purifiers are affordable, and simple to operate, and require minimal maintenance. They are trailer-mounted and can be transported to the most remote regions. Durability, reliability and cost-effectiveness distinguish these systems from others. Priced to be affordable, the systems provide clean water in a cost-effective manner, without the added cost and logistical headache of fuel or water transport.

A unique pre-filtration system assures that the pump will not foul. The pumps are specially designed to operate efficiently with solar power and the filtration system. Once water has passed through the system it is 99.99% free of harmful bacteria, viruses, cysts and pollutants, preventing water-borne diseases like cholera and typhoid. The systems can convert high turbidity (greater than 50 NTU) surface feed water to clear, clean drinking water (less than 0.2 NTU). NTU stands for Nephelometric Turbidity Unit, a measure of clarity of water.

These solar powered water purifiers have proven to be extremely effective in removing toxins, from cholera infected water in Iraq to well water poisoned by uranium mining activities in the Navajo nation in the US.

A solar powered water purification system

One of the 327 systems deployed in Iraq, providing clean water for 600,000 citizens


A solar powered water purification system

A solar powered waterpurification system readyfor shipment.

Clean water production rates

Clean water production rates

Since the systems can produce potable water from virtually any source water, and because the sun powers them, they offer a sustainable solution for drinking water shortages.

Providence is working to inform government agencies and non-government organizations (NGOs) about the life saving capabilities of these machines. In places like southern Sudan, the need is clear. According to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), only 48 percent of southern Sudanese have access to potable water.

Responding to an invitation from the governor of Central Equatoria, a state in southern Sudan, Providence representatives traveled to Juba in southern Sudan in February to witness the need for water purification systems and to offer a resolution to the problem. The result was a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Central Equatoria for Providence to provide solar powered water purification systems. In addition, Providence met with representatives of the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS), who expressed interest.

After decades of war, Southern Sudan is in a crucial phase, with southern Sudan scheduled to vote on a referendum for independence from northern Sudan in a referendum in January 2011. Elections were held in April to elect a president and parliament. Prior to those elections, one commenter noted on the website Gurtong that “it is clear that water access will matter greatly in the April 2010 elections in Southern Sudan. Hence, political parties and candidates with promising water accessibility programs for communities in need of water will likely be voted for en masse.” Gurtong is a website devoted to promoting peace and prosperity in southern Sudan.

A Project Information Document prepared by the World Bank notes that with the “current capacity to deliver new and rehabilitated water supply schemes in southern Sudan and the urgent need to deliver the so-called peace dividend, the water supply target may be achievable provided that both technical and community development capacity grows steadily over the years and sustainability improves.”

There are many areas in the world that can benefit from the systems designed by Providence partners. Meetings with ambassadors and ministers from Ghana, Cape Verde, and South Africa have proven that there is considerable interest. Providence is in the process of registering as a potential supplier with the United Nations, and will contact humanitarian aid organizations to inform them of these solutions.

The systems also are ideal for military operations, and Providence has responded Request For Information Documents (RFIs) from the US Army for solar powered water purification systems for Forward Operating Bases in Afghanistan, and from the US Air Force for medical grade water for mobile medical units. Because the systems’ filtration units can be tailored to fit the threat, they can provide safe drinking water in battle situations where toxic agents may be present.

Providence will be submitting information about these systems to the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which has expressed a high priority need for portable water purification systems. Providence systems fill the capability gap described in a DHS Operational Requirements Document:

“”The conventional method of providing potable water in the wake of a disaster is often costly and logistically complex. Normally, potable water is distributed to communities by trucking in bottled water or using diesel generator purification systems.

Any proposed system must eliminate many points of failure by presenting a stand-alone design allowing for flexible transport of the unit by air, land or water bringing a cost-effective, high-yield water purification capability to potential users incorporating a self-generating power source. “

Providence systems meet all these requirements

Solar powered systems designed by Providence partners can also help address food shortages by creating arable land where farming would be otherwise impossible. These solar powered irrigation systems can pump anywhere from ½ gallon to 1,000 gallons per minutes, from deep wells or up steep inclines. Solar powered booster stations can pump water over distances of 50 miles or more. There is really no limit to future capabilities. Solar pumps can deliver water for all types of irrigation, from flood to ultra-efficient drip irrigation. Filtration systems can be incorporated to make brackish water suitable for agriculture.

Solar powered pumps provide water to blackberry plants through a drip irrigation line in California.

Solar powered pumps provide water to blackberry plants through a drip irrigation line in California.

Solar powered irrigation pumps deliver 300 gallons per minute from a depth of 68 feet to irrigate pecan trees in Arizona.

Solar powered irrigation pumps deliver 300 gallons per minute from a depth of 68 feet to irrigate pecan trees in Arizona.

Solar powered irrigation pumps deliver 300 gallons per minute from a depth of 68 feet to irrigate pecan trees in Arizona.

Irrigation can improve food security in water-stressed areas. Malawi is an example. According to a 2005 Washington Post story, “Today, Malawi resembles the arid West African nation of Niger, which is suffering from a systemic food shortage of its own. Both countries are dependent on the most rudimentary forms of agriculture and cannot afford to import enough food to make up shortfalls. Both also have rapidly expanding populations and liberalizing economies that have failed to provide promised benefits.”

Malawi Agricultural Secretary Mwadiwa told the Post that in recent years international donors have been generous in providing emergency aid during food shortages. But he said development aid for irrigation, or even fertilizer and seed, had been inadequate.

The Post noted “several aid groups are investing in foot-pump irrigation systems to bring water to crops, but officials acknowledged that the scale of the project was nowhere near what is needed to end Malawi’s chronic food shortages.”

Despite the great potential in Africa for irrigation, estimated by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) to be about 27 million hectares, only one-sixth has so far been developed.

There are some encouraging signs of progress, however. A 2009 Stanford University study entitled “Solar-Powered Drip Irrigation Enhances Food Security in Sudano-Sahel”, Burnet et al. “

observed the following:

“Using a matched-pair comparison of villages in northern Benin (two treatment villages, two comparison villages), and household survey and field-level data through the first year of harvest in those villages, we find that solar-powered drip irrigation significantly augments both household income and nutritional intake, particularly during the dry season, and is cost effective compared to alternative technologies.”
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, compares

”PhotoVoltaic Drip Irrigation systems (PVDI) in northern Benin with a hypothetical alternative: An  identical irrigation system in which a liquid fuel (gasoline, diesel, kerosene) engine-driven pump has been substituted for the PV (solar cell) array and pump. For rural villages across the Sudano- Sahel, liquid-fuel pumps are the most likely alternatives to a PVDI system (and are commonly used in the region. They are appealing due to their low up-front costs, though fuel supplies may be unreliable and fuel prices volatile….Particularly when fuel prices are higher, PVDI is cost- competitive, even with the high (solar) array prices associated with the pilot project. With lower array prices, as could reasonably be assumed for a larger-scale project, PVDI is a cost-effective intervention in areas like northern Benin.” (from the study “Solar-Powered Drip Irrigation Enhances Food Security in Sudano-Sahel,” Burney et al, Stanford University). Solar power offers viable solutions to global water problems. Providence is an aggregator of the best in solar power, water purification, water conservation, and irrigation techniques. We can also provide a skilled well drilling team for international deployment. We offer the means, as well as the training and support, necessary to solve crucial water supply issues. Our goal is to alert key decision makers to these solutions.
For further information, contact:
Lex Henkels
Providence Trade and Development, LLC

call 215 540 0109 (USA), or email info(at)