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Solar Disinfection

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Solar Disinfection


Water disinfection

Disinfect soiled water with this free and easy technique using solar radiation. This simple process of filling transparent containers with water, and exposing them to full sunlight for about five hours, destroys pathogens in the water.


Name: Household-Based Solar Disinfection Method
Theme: Safe Water Management Region and Country: Maharashtra, India
Partners: Beneficiaries:
Funding Need: Budget:
Duration: Contact:

Programme Activities:
Water disinfection can be quite effective in managing soiled water and preventing the spread of disease. In Maharashtra, however, 44% of all households do not attempt to purify water at all, and of those that do, the most common method by far is to strain water through a cloth, which offers little or no disinfection of disease-causing agents. Only 18% of households (13% rural) boil or filter their water, and predictably, diarrhoea occurs much less frequently among these households than in those that do not boil or filter water.

Boiling water and using chemical additives as water disinfection methods require resources, essentially money and time, to treat drinking water. This programme promotes a water disinfection method that does not require any resources or much effort. Solar disinfection uses solar radiation to inactivate and destroy pathogens present in water. Treatment consists of filling transparent containers with water and exposing them to full sunlight for about five hours (or two consecutive days under 100 percent cloudy sky). Disinfection occurs by a combination of radiation and thermal treatment (the temperature of the water does not need to rise much above 50 degrees C.). Solar disinfection requires relatively clear water (turbidity less than 30NTU). This program will be promoted to all sectors of the community.

Intended Results:
Households in the state of Maharashtra will know about and utilize the promoted solar disinfection method. Consequently diarrhoea and dehydration will occur much less frequently in these households that disinfect their drinking water. In those households that do not disinfect their water using solar disinfection, the promotion of this program will at least make them aware that their water is not safe to drink. This knowledge and awareness is essential in moving towards a sense of priority and urgency to disinfect drinking water. When they have the available resources necessary, they too can disinfect their drinking water to decrease incidences of diarrhoea and dehydration.

Programme Management and Implementation:
Promotion of the solar water disinfection method and messages about the necessity for it and other disinfection techniques will be provided to mothers, health care providers, and the general public through training programmes, TV and radio broadcasts, and instructive pamphlets. The materials designed for and used in the program will be pre-tested to ensure clarity and success on a larger scale.

Programme Monitoring and Evaluation:
Initially programme monitoring will ensure that informative materials are reaching the appropriate audiences, that broadcasts air when scheduled, and other technical issues. Eventually, monitoring will ensure that the solar water disinfection method is being conducted properly and will evaluate recall and the understanding of the targeted audiences. Statistics on those who know about and are conducting solar water disinfection will be evaluated and compared to statistics before program implementation. The program will be modified as necessary.

Learning and Dissemination:

Related Resources:
More information on solar disinfection is available on the website

UNESCO Project


Solar Disinfection of Drinking Water and Oral Rehydration Solutions
Guidelines for Household Application in Developing Countries


Aftim Acra - Zeina Raffoul - Yester Karahagopian
Department of Environmental Health
Faculty of Health Science - American University of Beirut
Beirut, 1984
  1. Foreword
  2. Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT)
    The Revolution for Children
    The Four Simple Technologies
    Global Diarrhoeal Diseases Control Programs
    Causes, Transmission, and Control of Childhood Diarrhoea
  3. Oral Rehydration Solutions (ORS)
    The Practical Issues
    Domestic Formulations
    Disinfection by Boiling
  4. Solar Energy 
    Fundamental Considerations
    From Sun to Earth
    World Distribution
    A Competitor
    Some Practical Hints
  5. Solar Disinfection Studies
    Drinking Water
    Oral Rehydration Solutions
  6. Appendix



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