Queen's University

Table salt key in treating unsafe drinking water: Queen's University study

 
2012-05-16

Queen’s researchers have developed a new process using table salt to make drinking water safer. This is particularly good news for developing countries where 80 per cent of disease is linked to poor water quality and sanitation.

“The need for clean water for drinking, hygiene and sanitation purposes in developing regions is overwhelming,” says Brittany Dawney, lead author of the research.

The results of the current study suggest simple table salt may be an effective and affordable means of reducing murkiness in water caused by certain soils.

Ms Dawney, a civil engineering study, working with Professor Joshua Pearce (Mechanical and Materials Engineering), discovered adding table salt to murky water causes particles in the water to clump together. After the clumps are removed, the water is left in the sun for up to six hours to kill the pathogens that cause diarrhea. The initial salt treatment is key to producing safe drinking water, as Dr. Pearce points out “the solar water disinfection (SODIS) technology does not work with murky water.”

If the findings prove effective in the field, the number of people in developing regions that can access SODIS as a means of supplying clean, safe water will be greatly increased.

Next steps include testing how the process works on different soil types across Africa.

The research was recently published in the Journal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development.

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