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UIC: Gates Foundation Funds UIC Solar-powered Water Treatment Project in Kenya

The University of Illinois at Chicago has received a $100,000 grant from Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The grant will enable the expansion and testing of a clean drinking water system in two informal urban settlements located in Kisumu, a city of 500,000 people in Kenya. Dr. Samuel Dorevitch, associate professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, is the principal investigator on the grant.

The water disinfection system uses solar power to produce ozone gas. The gas is then bubbled through water collected from natural or municipal sources to kill germs and make the water safe for drinking. In partnership with The Safe Water and AIDS Project, or SWAP, a non-governmental organization based in Western Kenya, Dr. Dorevitch and colleagues have already installed small versions of the system in ten homes in Kisumu’s Kisian Village, where it can disinfect about 40 liters of water a day.

“New and better ways of treating drinking water have to work well in the laboratory, but they also have to be user-friendly and work well in people’s homes,” said Dr. Dorevitch, who is also a fellow of UIC’s Institute for Environmental Science and Policy. “People in Kisian Village who used the solar-powered water treatment system say it’s simple to use and they continue to use it even months after the research ended.”

The new grant money will enable Dr. Dorevitch and his group to install much larger systems in Kisumu that can process up to 5,000 liters of water each day for community use.

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