Clean and hot domestic water can save the world

Petra Wadström presenting at World Water Week 2021

As we all know, the planet is warming fast, everyone now calls for action, but change is slow. Structural changes are needed, and it is very little we can do as individuals. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the bleak future that dawns upon us all. But dooms-day thinking delays action and are therefore equally as bad as climate-denying. New ideas and innovations that span across sectors hold the key to a better future for all. Ultimately changing the world has to be a team effort, but it needs the novel idea to start. 


Research shows that 50-60% of the energy bill goes to heat water for urban households in Kenya. The energy needs are enormous, with high power peaks in the mornings and evenings often resulting in significant power cuts. To reduce that problem, Kenyan Government has decided that all new urban buildings should be equipped with Solar Water Heaters. This is a good plan! This will strengthen the resilience of the energy system. 


But how about the rest of the population living in rural settings (where just 1% of the Kenyan HH are connected to the grid) and living with no running safe nor running hot water at home but still have the exact needs?

Hot safe water is essential to daily life, from washing hands, preparing food, cleaning the dishes, to showering.

90% of the HH in Kenyan rural areas use firewood and charcoal (and in the last years of Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, the use of biomass has increased due to increased poverty). This screenshot is geospatial data from Energy Access Explorer (EAE), an online, open-source, interactive platform with data from key government agencies. It shows areas where access to energy services should be expanded. (World Resources Institute).


Half the world cooks with wood! 3-4 kg to cook a meal on a three-stone stove. Back in Kenya, Only 6% of the land is forest. 35 million ton is needed to cover the fuelwood need for the population, every year, but about 15 million ton is supplied. 20 million tons is missing. The massive deficit in fuelwood supply has led to high rates of deforestation adverse environmental effects such as desertification, land degradation, droughts, and famine, among others. Many regions and communities are decades away from a well-functioning infrastructure, and of course, the energy should, from a sustainability point of view, come from renewable energy sources.


We all have a need to stay clean and healthy. Even in tropical and arid areas, it is cold in the morning and cold in the evening, and the need for access to hot & safe water is part of the dignity of life. To drink the morning tea and having a warm bath needs to have the fire on, and someone has to start it early… But there are tools to collect and store safe heated water. A thermos flask is a necessity for every family. Why is the question “what do you use the energy for” so seldom asked? Hot water usage is included in all parts of daily life. For preparing and cooking food, preparing porridge, making tea, taking a shower, washing hands and making the dishes and so on… Small solar-home systems primarily provide electricity just enough to have lights and some low voltage equipment, but that is not enough energy to run an electric water heater, a stove, or a fridge. Or a kettle. I think that the connection between the needs of users and the enormous potential of innovations should meet those needs. To ask, listen, and user experience and my imagination to understand reality triggered me to create a solution. To give a tool to women, to build independence. And to use the power of the sun. I made Solvatten, a device to treat and heat water that has today reached more than 80 000 families in 20+ countries. This is Solvatten using the synergetic effect of thermal heat absorbed and UV radiation transmitted. Provides safe and hot water* maximum 167°F ( 75°C ) desirable for a family (5-6 p) daily. It will serve a family for years. Well kept, it will last through childhood. Meeting WHO’s guidelines for safe drinking water at the highest purifying level treating water for harmful bacteria. Viruses and Parasites


Do you agree with Petra that we need a New Water Standard for Off-Grid Households? Participate in a 20-sec mini-survey from Solvatten. A new standard could bring climate, health, and hygiene benefits and synergy with the energy sector and SDG 7.


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