A fledgling social enterprise, based in western Sydney, is aiming to combat the global clean water crisis by delivering clean water to some 1 million people within the next ten years.
Syed Mansoor, a Pakistani born engineer, founded the social enterprise Water Democracy with the ambitious aim of helping to end the international water crisis because he says access to water is a democratic human right.
“Just imagine you’re a mother who has to walk four hours every day just to get water. The water isn't clean so when you give that water to your children you’re consciously making them sick,” Mansoor said.
“You’re overcome with feelings of guilt because in your mind you didn't do enough for your children but what you're doing is all you can do. It isn't fair to anyone and it isn't democratic.
“This is the feelings of hundreds of thousands of parents all over the world each day and we need to do something to stop this,” he said.
According to the World Health Organisation, each day some 2.1 billion people world wide fight for the most precious commodity on the planet: clean water. Some 3 in 10 people don't have access to safe and reliable water.
Growing up in Karachi, Mansoor became more aware of the global situation after he started to discover how bad the global water shortage crisis really is.
“In Pakistan I was paying for very expensive and terrible quality water. I soon found out that even then some 10 percent of the global population doesn't even have the quality of water that I have, and the quality of water I have is pretty bad,” he said.
After coming to Australia to complete his studies in engineering Mansoor decided he needed to commit himself to finding a simple and long lasting solution to the worsening global water situation, so he founded the Water Democracy.
“We are focused on simplifying the current available solutions for water purification. We want to make a simple, cheap and robust solution to the problem,” Mansoor said.
“We want to put water back into the hands of the people, make water a resource that everyone can access in a democratic fashion, because water is the source of life,” he said.
Using collaboration and open source designs found on the internet, Mansoor set out to approach the problem in an abstract way, with users at the front of his mind, so he can formulate a cheaper alternative method for water purification.
“One of our approaches is we co-design it with people who are going to use it,” Mansoor said.
“We’re focusing on open source designs that are available online to anyone instead of reinventing the wheel.
“In our foundation stages we found there is plenty of technology available to solve the international water crisis but often water purification machines are too expensive or they're too complicated for people to operate on their own,” he said.
Currently the market is selling water purification devices for thousands of dollars online, but Mansoor said his device, called a solar still, will work better, it will cost less and it can be made with cheaper materials than the competitors on the market.
“The first prototype of the solar still was made with a handsaw and very basic materials I picked up from my local hardware store,” Mansoor said.
“The second solar still I made was reinforced with fibreglass and is much sturdier.
“You keep dirty water in there, put it out in the sun and leave it there all day. It doesn't use solar panels or any moving parts, and through heat and sunlight it distills your water. The current model gives you 2 to 3 litres of clean water a day,” he said.
Currently the Water Democracy is testing out their latest prototypes in the suburbs of western Sydney. The solar stills are in a foundation stage of testing but Mansoor is already looking beyond this. He wants to move past this and get his devices to the places that need them most.
In Australia, there is a water quality and access crisis in many remote Indigenous communities that remains largely unseen and unheard by the rest of the country.
In 2015 a report from the WA state government said there are dangerous and harmful levels of uranium, E. coli and Naegleria bacteria in drinking water across a number of remote, outback communities with most of these communities failing Australian health standards.
This failing and polluted water supply is pushing Mansoor to start deploying his units in the remote communities that are most at risk.
“I wasn't aware that there is quite a water problem in Australia,” Mansoor said.
“I never understood that there was a drinking and household water shortage problem in some communities in Australia.
“This should not be a problem in the twenty-first century in any country let alone in Australia. We’ve got the technology and if we invest in making the products cheaper I can bet that we can solve this,” he said.
To help with his ventures and the further development of Water Democracy, Mansoor is asking for volunteers, interns and helpers to help build, produce and test more of his water purification units.
If you have any technical skills in design, social media or communications Mansoor is looking for volunteers. You can contact him through his social media page or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.