Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Using the seeds of a horseradish tree to purify water

A scientific study going on in Zimbabwe is testing the use of a certain seed to purify water.

The study couldn't have been done at a better place, as Zimbabwe's water system is a catastrophe. The contaminated drinking water in the country caused a large cholera outbreak, which claimed the lives of over 3.000 people. Less than a third of the people in Southern Africa have access to clean water, the number is even less in Zimbabwe.

From the IPS, reporters Busani Bafana and Zahira Kharsany tell us about the research.

Water and sanitation experts are currently investigating if a powder made from the seeds of the Moringa Oleifera, commonly known as the drumstick or horseradish tree, can be used as a filter to purify water.

"Water quality is a problem in Zimbabwe, and this is not only confined to urban areas but happens in rural areas too," explained NUST civil engineer Ellen Mangore.

She told IPS the research project is modelled on water treatment practices in Sudan, where the seed is used pounded or whole to purify water. Moringa Oleifera is a small tree whose leaves are popularly used to make salad, while its elongated fruit is eaten as a vegetable.

Researchers place their hopes in the Moringa tree seed for water purification, as the tree is widely found in Zimbabwe. In addition, it is drought tolerant and grows in locations with as little as 500 millimetres of annual rainfall.

In addition, NUST investigates other simple water treatment methods, such as purification with household bleach and sand filtration columns.

So far, the treatment of water with Moringa seed powder has proven to be an effective method of reducing water-borne diseases and correct pH, said Mangore, as have the other tested methods.

"Our test results also showed that household bleach is a very strong disinfectant and raised the levels of free and total chlorine in the water, while the simple filtration columns resulted in almost 85 percent reduction in total suspended solids," she explained.

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