Malaysia’s entry for James Dyson Award helps ‘sea nomads’ have clean water
“Sea nomads” have subsisted for hundreds if not thousands of years in liminal space between land and sea around the islands of the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Their homes stand atop stilts in the shallow waters just off the coast, and their diving ability is legendary. But increasingly the waters they depend on are filled with plastic waste and clean drinking water, always at a premium, is hard to come by. A trio of Malaysian students might have figured out a solution with their sustainable WaterPod, which is a finalist for the James Dyson Award.
The WaterPod is a floating sustainable desalination pod that uses solar distillation to turn seawater to clean drinking water. With a body made from recycled plastic waste, the WaterPod uses a wick structure that dips into the sea and draws in water with minimal salt intake. The salt that does make it through is filtered out by evaporation and condensation under the clear plastic cover that lets sunlight — aided by black fabric and an aluminum plate — do the work of purifying the water so it’s potable.
A water pump allows users to extract the 8 to 10.5 gallons each pod can contain, and the pods can serve as an inexpensive and easy substitute for expensive desalination plants, say creators Bennie Beh Hue May, Loo Xin Yang and Yap Chun Yoon of Asia Pacific University of Technology & Innovation.
“As the aim of creating this WaterPod is to provide clean water to the community to improve their livelihood, to be able to commercialize the unit will be a bonus for the sea nomads as a certain percentage of the profit can then be channeled back to work with the community,” Yap told the Malay Mail.
The water can also go toward growing fruits and vegetables on the islands the sea nomads live off, making for a self-sustaining community. WaterPod progresses to the international stage of the Dyson competition, with wimmers announced Oct. 13.