Red Cross Uses Kiwi Ingenuity
6 March 2008
New Zealand Red Cross Uses Kiwi Ingenuity To Turn Salt Water Into Safe Drinking Water
A partnership born of Kiwi ingenuity between New Zealand Red Cross and Auckland based engineering firm General Marine has created a robust and mobile water making facility that can turn salt water into safe drinking water – offering a lifeline to small communities during emergency or disaster situations.
The Water Maker, the first of its type for the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, has the capacity to provide 3000 litres of clean drinking water per day to the benefit of up to 900 people.
The Water Maker consists of a salt water pump, a desalination unit and a portable diesel generator all housed in a protective casing. The unit turns salt water into safe drinking water using a filtration system.
New Zealand Red Cross aid worker Victoria Fray, who works for Opus International as a water engineer when she is not deployed on a humanitarian mission, has been part of the team who designed the unique unit.
“I was deployed to Vanuatu in 2005 to help with the humanitarian emergency created by volcanic ash fallout from the eruption of Mount Manaro. At that stage New Zealand Red Cross had a desalination unit that they sent over to assist, but it was a basic model with no protective casing,” says Victoria. “I was quite surprised it wasn’t damaged.”
“When we returned from the emergency, we approached General Marine, who make desalination units, about designing something more robust and usable. We wanted something that would be useful in our corner of the world. A bit of Kiwi ingenuity, a diesel generator and a salt water pump – and we have the Water Maker!”
While there are other similar desalination units available, they are bigger and more difficult to transport and maintain. The robustness and relative mobility of the Water Maker means it can be used in some of the smaller isolated communities around the Pacific, particularly those who are vulnerable due to a limited water infrastructure.
The Water Maker is currently on standby in Auckland and is ready to be deployed when required. Once in location it can be up and running in a couple of hours, turning salt water into safe drinking water, securing a vital resource that is often the first to go in an emergency situation.