Clean drinking water for all (UN Social Development Goal 6)

Proposed by Professor Charl Faul

Image by Vicki Francis/Department for International Development.
CC BY 3.0 DEED 

Overview

The challenge is to provide clean and safe drinking water to communities, particularly in rural or informal urban settlements where resources and exposure to formal education limited. Many communities lack access to clean water due to contamination from sources like the textile dyeing industry, acid mine drainage, or specific heavy metal contamination such as mercury, cadmium, or arsenic. Communities often face a stark choice between buying clean water, which can be prohibitively expensive, or allocating funds to other essentials like food and fuel. The water sources would be heavily contaminated, but no other option might exist. Can we provide simple, cost-effective solutions that will bring real change?  

The focus would therefore be on solving one specific problem (see challenge below for options) – with different scientific solutions to the different types of problems. Use of locally available biomass (either as stand-alone solution, or in combination with specific technological solutions) present a potentially sustainable solution. 

This challenge goes beyond merely providing clean water; it aims to create sustainable solutions that foster job creation and support local skills development.  

Challenge

Suggest a simple, cost-effective and safe solution to provide clean drinking water for those whose local water sources are affected by:

  • textile dying industry
  • acid mine drainage
  • specific heavy metal contamination (e.g., mercury, cadmium or arsenic) 

Please only choose one challenge from the options above.

Output ideas

  • Develop a prototype design for one of the challenges mentioned above, to be tested on simulated contaminated water. 
  • Develop plans to establish a social enterprise in an affected community focusing on sustainable water treatment solutions and community empowerment. 

Resources

For an overview of the size of the problem see the UN SDG 6 pages here

Biomass-derived biochar in wastewater treatment- a circular economy approach 

Recent advances on sustainable bio-based materials for water treatment: Fabrication, modification and application 

Controlled Removal of Organic Dyes from Aqueous Systems Using Porous Cross-Linked Conjugated Polyanilines 

Cellulose: A Review of Water Interactions, Applications in Composites, and Water Treatment