Community challenges when using large plastic bottles for Solar Energy Disinfection of Water (SODIS).

BACKGROUND: Communities living in developing countries as well as populations affected by natural or man-made disasters can be left at great risk from water related diseases, especially those spread through the faecal-oral route. Conventional water treatments such as boiling and chlorination can be effective but may prove costly for impoverished communities. Solar water disinfection (SODIS) has been shown to be a cheap and effective way for communities to treat their water. The exposure to sunlight is typically carried out in small volume plastic beverage bottles (up to 2 l). Given the water requirements of consumption and basic personal hygiene, this may not always meet the needs of communities. Recent work has shown 19-L plastic water dispenser containers to be effective SODIS reactors, comparable in efficacy to PET bottles. In this paper we outline the need for studying SODIS in large volumes and discuss 4 main associated challenges.

DISCUSSION: Apart from clean water needed for consumption, access to adequate water is essential for sanitation and hygiene. Contamination of treated water through unwashed hands or vessels contributes heavily to the spread of water borne pathogens in communities. Traditional water treatments such as boiling and chlorination can be effective but may prove financially burdensome for low income communities. SODIS in large vessels could be used as a simple method to meet water requirements in low income and disaster affected populations. However, there have been some concerns associated with the conventional SODIS method; we identify the main ones to be: (1) cold or cloudy weather; (2) the fear of leaching in plastic bottles; (3) water turbidity, and; (4) community acceptance. The application of SODIS in large bottles like WDCs has the potential to be an efficient and cost effective method of disinfecting water, either for consumption until more rigorous water treatments can be put in place, or for sanitation and hygiene to curb the spread of fecal contamination. Further research is needed that can address some of the limitations and challenges associated with the use of large bottles for SODIS.