Trio’s solution to water crisis

2016-06-23 10:31

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Pietermaritzburg - They might be Grade 11 pupils, but they are already working on solving the country’s greatest challenge — water scarcity.

Three pupils of Imbali’s Mehlokazulu High School Nondumiso Mkhize, Nolwazi Sithole and Nonduduzo Mbhele, have invented a bio-sand filter system project that cleans and purifies water using waste energy.

With the country facing a severe drought, Nondumiso said they knew they had to do something.

The first step was to conserve the “little” available water, she said.

“If you look at the Willowfountain stream, it is highly polluted. People are dumping rubbish in the stream,” she continued.

Using some of the material dumped in the stream, the trio started putting together the device.

“We had started putting together our ideas last year,” said Nolwazi, adding they had used the traditional method of a bio-sand filter.

Just to make sure of the water quality they are purifying, the water has to go through three turbidity observers, said Nolwazi.

The water would then reach the boiling stage, before being totally treated.

“We also used additional filters,” said Nonduduzo.

The source of energy for boiling the water is organic kitchen waste.

“This is the waste that we picked up from the streets,” said Nonduduzo

“You can also use cow dung if you like. This device saves both energy and water.

“Even during load-shedding you can use it to cook.”

Explaining the journey, Life Science teacher Thoko Njoko said it had given her pupils “much-needed” practical experience.

“Because we do not have a laboratory here at school, we had to ask Umgeni Water if we could use their facilities to do water quality tests. For [the pupils], being in the lab, wearing lab coats, was inspiring.

“Hulamin also donated the stands and we received some tips from a University of KwaZulu-Natal professor.

“I think as teachers, we have to go beyond the classroom to help our pupils and empower them. The country does not have enough engineers,” she said.

The project won top honours during the provincial SA Youth Water Prize competition and came third in the national finals.

The trio won laptops and were awarded bursaries.

“Representing the province nationally was one of my proudest moments. I was truly inspired,” said Nondumiso, adding she had changed from wanting to be a town planner to wanting to be an environmental scientist.

“We just do not have enough in the field,” she said.

“When we went to Pretoria, we flew. It was the first time that I had been in an aeroplane,” said an excited Nonduduzo.


Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  water

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