Water Disinfection across the World

As we all know, the main aim of any water disinfection is to remove, deactivate or kill pathogenic microorganisms that are residing in the water so that it is safe for human use. Clean and safe water is the backbone of any modern society, and getting supplies throughout the developing world is something scientists and inventors have  been working on for the past few decades.

These days there are a wide range of ways to disinfect water, some of which are so simple and cheap to do, that they’re being used wide scale in draught-stricken countries around the world. To break these down further (pun intended) the water disinfection processes that exist today falls into one of two categories – chemical or physical.

Chemical disinfection of Water

Water Purification

Image Source: Flickr

There are numerous known chemicals that efficiently disinfect water and in large scale disinfection plants this is the process most commonly used. So for example, the water that comes out of your taps at home or at work will have been disinfected by chemical means in a large scale water treatment plant.
Some of the most common chemicals used in water treatment include:

  • Chlorine and derivatives of chlorine such as chlorine dioxide and hypochlorite
  • Ozone
  • Bromine, bromine chloride and iodine
  • Copper, silver and various other metals
  • Alcohols
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Soaps and detergents

Chemical disinfection of water is often an expensive process and so it is rarely seen in the poorer regions of the world. However, one innovative invention that is available to people in areas where there is a lack of water disinfection is the ‘Lifestraw’. This small invention resembles a traditional cigar but is packed with enough disinfecting chemicals to purify 700 litres of water. Users simply drink through the straw as they would a normal straw, safe in the knowledge that all known pathogens will have been removed from the water before it reaches their lips.

Physical disinfection of Water

Chemicals can sometimes be expensive and difficult to transport and store. For this reason, so inventors have also focussed on a number of ways to disinfect water without their use. These methods of killing microorganisms include:

  • UV Light
  • Solar Energy
  • Gamma Rays
  • Heat

In regions of the world where water quality is unfit for human consumption it’s often the case that the sun shines brightly for the vast majority of the year – luckily, it’s the sun that provides all of the above physical methods of disinfecting water.

Amongst the inventions that are currently in use are the;

  • ‘Life Sack’ – a plastic water purification device that can be carried much like a backpack from the source of water to a village or home
  • ‘Pure’ – water bottles that use a system of filters and UV light rays to purify water in under 2 minutes
  • Solarball’ – which uses the heat of the sun and the mechanisms of evaporation and condensation to cleanse water of dirt and contaminants.

Using these new technologies on a large scale for water disinfection is an aim for the future but until then the chemical processes we already have are more than adequate for the needs of the world.


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