Water is an essential part of our lives and with issues like climate crisis, rising population, and pollution, water scarcity has become a concern. However, scientists may have come up with an innovative way of conserving water and it involves an astronaut pee filtering machine.
The idea might seem quite crazy at first but the way astronauts consume water in space is an example of efficient use of water, and as the cases of water scarcity rise on earth, similar efficiency is required here as well. Danish company Aquaporin that designed urine filtering machines for astronauts on International Space Station (ISS) is planning to develop similar machines here on earth where it is most required.
Speaking to CNN, Aquaporin A/S CEO, Peter Holme Jensen said his company has created a new system that uses proteins called aquaporins in its machines that allows water to cross the membrane of living cells.
The idea comes from how aquaporins work in plant roots to absorb water from soil. These proteins also work in human kidneys to filter about 45 gallons of fluids every day. Aquaporins also prevent contaminants from passing through.
The requirement of such efficient and water purification systems is only going to rise in future as World Health Organisation (WHO) report pointed out that by 2025, half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas. More than access to water, it is the access to clean drinking water that will determine the health and prosperity of a region.
According to WHO, around 8,29,000 people can die each year from diarrhoea, which is a water-borne disease, as a result of contaminated drinking-water, sanitation, and hand hygiene. Even though diarrhoea is largely preventable, issues like water adulteration can cause deaths of 2,97,000 children under the age of five.
In 2018, the South African town of Cape Town almost ran out of water due to drought and climate change. The government had prepared to cut water connection to four million people that resided in the area. The conditions had gotten so bad that restaurants and businesses were encouraging people not to flush after going to the toilet. Therefore, if you think water scarcity is a thing of future just like climate crisis and its effects, well it is not.
CNN reports that to develop this filter, Aquaporin will collaborate with wastewater companies to eliminate micropollutants and microplastics from wastewater and even prevent them from flowing into the sea. The wastewater companies include Denmark's largest state-owned wastewater utility, BIOFOS and UTB Envirotec from Hungary.