Researchers from UVA talked to village chiefs in Limpopo province before meeting with other locals and potters, who helped to develop a domestic solution to widespread water contamination.
In addition to being affordable, it was important that the water filtration device could be made at home in order to alleviate the need for costly imports, and to build upon indigenous knowledge and skills.
In 2011, local people were employed to build the necessary infrastructure for a local PureMadi manufacturing plant, which includes a kiln in which the clay bowls are fired.
But how do they work?
A mix of clay, sawdust and water is put into molds before it is fired in a large kiln. This heating process sloughs off the sawdust, which creates small perforations in the bowls that allow water, but not impurities, to pass through.
Once the bowls are cool, a coat of copper or silver nano-particles is applied to them, which is what removes invisible pathogens from contaminated water. The same team also developed a small tablet-shaped water purifier called MadiDrop, according to Springwise.
A total of 10 PureMadi manufacturing points are planned in and around South Africa, where hundreds of thousands of people lack access to clean water.
Affordable and culturally relevant, the PureMadi is similar to clay pots traditionally used in Egypt and other parts of North Africa and the Middle East to store water.
However, the pots would not be effective as treatment devices without the nano-particle coating produced at a university lab in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Still, this could be a sustainable approach to providing clean water to people in our region who often go without – particularly now in refugee camps throughout Jordan and Lebanon; it is also an empowering job creation strategy.
Images via PureMadi