UV-Tube Design Concept for Sustainable, Point-of-Use Water Disinfection

EPA Grant Number: SU831825
Title: UV-Tube Design Concept for Sustainable, Point-of-Use Water Disinfection
Investigators: Nelson, Kara , Cohn, Alicia , Connelly, Lloyd G. , Kammen, Dan , Larsen, William
Institution: University of California - Berkeley , Rochester Institute of Technology , University of California - Davis
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: I
Project Period: September 30, 2004 through September 29, 2005
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2004) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Drinking Water , P3 Challenge Area - Water , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Awards , Sustainability


The 2002 World Health Organization report on worldwide mortality indicates that waterborne illnesses associated with unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation are still a major cause of death in the developing world. Although a variety of methods exist for treating drinking water, many people do not have access to these lifesaving technologies.


In their absence, families face economic hardship due to lost workdays and expenditures for health care. When water treatment methods are accessible, they often consume significant energy or have environmental consequences such as deforestation, increased solid wastes, or air pollution.


The UV-Tube is a design concept for disinfecting drinking water at the point of use—the household tap or neighborhood well. UV-Tube designs use ultraviolet (UV) light to inactivate harmful microorganisms that may be present in water. To be appropriate for use in developing countries UT-Tubes must be affordable (designs have been made for $41), passive, easy to use, and simple to understand. Furthermore, UT-Tubes must be built from locally available parts and operated without daily vigilance.

Expected Results:

Currently, there are two UV-Tube designs—a stainless steel-lined PVC tube and a ferrocement trough with cover design—which were developed by graduate students from the Energy Resources Group and the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of California at Berkeley (UCB) using an iterative process of design and field testing which incorporated user feedback. Preliminary lab and field tests have been completed on both designs and more are planned using improved testing protocols. Potentially, development of new and improved UV-Tube designs will be incorporated as a project of the student Engineers Without Frontiers chapter and as a project for a pilot freshman design class. All designs will be subjected to tracer, materials degradation, and germicidal testing as well as field trials with our partner organizations in Haiti or Mexico. In the field we will perform monthly biological tests, conduct user preference, health, and willingness to pay surveys, and collect user feedback on the design. We are investigating micro financing implementation strategies for entrepreneurs wishing to sell validated UV-Tube designs or treated water. Teaching aids on sustainability will be developed for UCB professors, and, because field trials and user feedback are integral in the design process for a UV tube, teaching aids will also be developed for our community partners. All validated designs will be made available on the web. We are seeking $10,000 to develop curriculum, support students to develop sustainable new UV-Tube designs, and to test current and improved designs in the laboratory and in the field.

The UV-Tube concept has the potential to improve people’s health by reducing the rates of waterborne illness at a low cost. Better health allows families to save valuable financial resources, and entrepreneurs can sell UV-Tubes, increasing economic prosperity. Compared with other common methods of obtaining safe water, UV-Tubes a

Supplemental Keywords:

engineering, point-of-use ultraviolet drinking water disinfection, economic development, prototype, RFA, Scientific Discipline, INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION, Water, Environmental Chemistry, Ecological Risk Assessment, Drinking Water, Environmental Engineering, alternative disinfection methods, Safe Drinking Water, disinfection of waters, UV treatment, drinking water distribution system, microbial risk management, treatment, point of use, water disinfection, contaminant removal, drinking water treatment, water treatment, ultraviolet disinfection, point of source treatment

Relevant Websites:

Phase 2 Abstract
Phase 2 Final Report

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report
  • P3 Phase II:

    UV-Tube Design Concept for Sustainable, Point-of-Use Water Disinfection  | Final Report