Design and Testing of a Point of Use Electrolytic Chlorine Generator for Drinking Water Disinfection in Poor Countries

EPA Grant Number: SU834013
Title: Design and Testing of a Point of Use Electrolytic Chlorine Generator for Drinking Water Disinfection in Poor Countries
Investigators: Just, Craig , Donham, Joel , Gwinnup, Aaron , Keenan, Alexandra , Rhoads, Thomas , Smith, Jessica
Institution: University of Iowa
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: II
Project Period: August 15, 2008 through August 13, 2010
Project Amount: $75,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet - Phase 2 (2008) Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Challenge Area - Water , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Awards , Sustainability


More than 1 billion people lack access to improved water and as a result, there are 1.6 million annual deaths resulting from unsafe drinking water. Ninety percent of these deaths are children under the age of five.


A growing body of research correlates the usage of point-of-use water treatment and safe storage with improvements in microbial water quality and diarrhea reduction. This point-of-use technology can be:

  • Rapidly implemented
  • Cost-effective
  • The most effective of currently available water, health, and sanitation interventions

To realize the potential of point-of-use technology, it must be safe for users and suitably robust for daily use in demanding settings, while simultaneously a culturally sensitive solution that promotes sustainability. A point-of-use water treatment product is only effective in lowering mortality if it is used consistently and correctly, thus emphasizing the need to identify approaches that will increase the acceptance of such a product and contribute to the long-term success of the endeavor.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Pan American Health Organization developed the Safe Water System (SWS). SWS is a point-of-use water treatment approach that employs locally purchased sodium hypochlorite (bleach) for disinfection, followed by safe water storage to prevent recontamination. Maintaining long-term use of the SWS requires significant resources and ongoing donor support for activities such as social marketing, promotion, and product distribution. These demands call into question the sustainability of the SWS.

Household bleach production, through the use of an electrolytic cell, may allow for a one-time product investment as well as a shorter user education period to ensure long-term use. Additionally, this approach may be more feasible in remote areas or areas where decentralized access to bleach may be a more prudent solution.

It is in this context that the following problem definition was developed. The design team must develop and test a low cost, individualized electrolytic chlorine generator that can generate high concentrations of bleach from water containing sodium chloride. The apparatus must also be safe for users, suitably robust to withstand daily use and easy to maintain or repair. To best accomplish the goal of improving the quality of drinking water worldwide while increasing sustainability and establishing global partnerships, the following design objectives were established for the project:

  • The final product must be affordable to individual families in developing countries
  • The system must be less cumbersome than the current designs
  • The chlorinator must be powered by a renewable, easily accessible energy source
  • The device must be easy to maintain and resist corrosion
  • The device must be safe and portable

Relevant Websites:

Phase 1 Abstract
Phase 1 Final Report

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2009
  • Final

  • P3 Phase I:

    Design and Testing of a Point of Use Electrolytic Chlorine Generator for Drinking Water Disinfection in Poor Countries  | Final Report