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Water Purification with Solar Cookers

In rural Tanzania, water is hard to come by, and humans and animals sometimes drink from the same waterholes. Contaminated water leads to diarrhea, a leading killer of children under five years old. As part of its health mission, AHEAD pioneered a simple solar cookers to pasteurize drinking water.

AHEAD’s methodology relies on a “CooKit,” from Solar Cookers International The device resembles a dismantled cardboard box. The four panels are covered in foil. A black kettle or container sits on the bottom panel, and is surrounded by the remaining sections. The panels reflect sunlight that the kettles absorb and convert to heat. Often the container is enclosed in a polyurethane bag to retain the heat. The end point of purification is measured by a Water Purification Indicator, (WAPI), which changes from a solid to a liquid at 149 degrees Fahrenheit, the point at which microbes such as E. Coli and Hepatitis A are killed.

Solar Cookers International conceived of the “CooKit” as a means to cook food. When AHEAD co-founder Elvira Williams, who sat on the organization’s board, saw a demonstration, she realized the device could transcend its original function and be used to also purify water. Over the last 15 years, AHEAD has taught this innovative water-purification methodology to more than 500 people in Tanzania and The Gambia. The trainers teach others. All in all, more than 100,000 people have benefited from this solar-cooker pasteurization.

Because of this innovation, AHEAD received the prestigious Ashden Award for Renewable Energy in 2003 from the Whitley Foundation of Great Britain which recognizes “ground-breaking green energy champions in the UK and developing world…” There is also a cash prize attendant with the award.

Guaranteeing access to clean water has become more crucial as water becomes scarce during droughts. Residents in sub-Saharan Africa exist on 10 to 20 liters each day; North Americans use 350 liters a day. With just a cost of $25.00 per “Cookit,” AHEAD can train many more folks in solar-cooker pasteurization. Consider making a donation now, so that clean drinking water will reach more families in need.


AHEAD is a 501(c)3 organization that is recognized in the United States and Tanzania.