Can we capture potable water from raincoats?

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Paul Anderson

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Can we capture potable water from raincoats?
« on: 31/10/2010 09:30:10 »
Paul Anderson  asked the Naked Scientists:
Hi Chris and team,

We have flooding in Pakistan and China, and now Niger (after a drought). Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink. How about issuing plastic ponchos to the Pakistanis and at the bottom of the ponchos is a funnel leading into a plastic bag to capture rainwater that falls on the individual?

One of the problems with the existing water is that it is muddy. I thought of using a cylinder being rotated by someone on a bicycle frame, so you have a centrifuge. I haven't thought this through properly yet because, even if the centrifuge send the mud to the walls of the centrifuge, it is still in the water. I presume some method similar to how you separate blood plasma, etc.

That still hasn't purified the water, but at least it helps speed up the separation of gunk from the water and you can use water purification tablets a bit more effectively.

The world should have a worldwide competition to come up with ideas on how to produce clean water.
What is the difference between purified water and distilled water? Surely purified water is going to be less pure than distilled water if it has chlorine or iodine in it.  In the attachment I am sending it says distilled water is acidic and to avoid it, but I thought  distilled water would just be water, unless it was previously with some substance which had a lower boiling point than that of water and so was carried across in the steam.

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 31/10/2010 09:30:10 by _system »


Offline SeanB

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Can we capture potable water from raincoats?
« Reply #1 on: 31/10/2010 11:14:26 »
The issue of flood water is that it can ( and probably is) be contaminated with toxic bacterial products, lead from burnt fuel, cholera and any number of toxins that are not good to drink.  You need to filter it ( a few stacked cloth bags and some activated charcoal) to remove most suspended matter and then add a disinfectant ( chlorine as in sodium hyperchlorite aka pool chlorine, hydrogen peroxide or iodine)or heat to boiling point to break down any protein poisons or bacteria.

That produces drinkable water that is reasonably safe.