Sun, Bottles and Beeswax: Local Solutions for Clean Water Using Solar Disinfection

EPA Grant Number: SU834742
Title: Sun, Bottles and Beeswax: Local Solutions for Clean Water Using Solar Disinfection
Investigators: Doll, Susan , Raichle, Brian W. , Taubman, Brett , Lea, Katharine , Cavert, Katie , Tuberty, Shea , Abernathy, Sydni
Current Investigators: Doll, Susan , Raichle, Brian W. , Gay, Ashley , Taubman, Brett , Camp, Brooks , Bowman, Josh , Cavert, Katie , Dodd, Katy , Welsh, Patrick , Tuberty, Shea
Institution: Appalachian State University
EPA Project Officer: Page, Angela
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2010 through August 14, 2011
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2010) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Chemical Safety , P3 Challenge Area - Safe and Sustainable Water Resources , P3 Awards , Sustainable and Healthy Communities


Lack of clean drinking water poses a serious health threat in the developing world, especially to children under the age of five. Point-of-Use (POU) water treatment has been shown to decrease the incidence of diarrhea by 30-40% in some studies. The focus of this proposal is solar disinfection (SODIS) of water in reused plastic bottles, a low-cost method that will use available local resources as well as thermal heat and ultraviolet exposure to kill pathogens in drinking water. We also propose to develop a prototype beeswax indicator, which will confirm that sufficient temperatures have been attained for disinfection. This project will empower people to acquire better health through clean drinking water, provide economic opportunities for local beekeepers, and reduce environmental degradation from waste disposal and fuelwood use. A broad population will be able to use the SODIS technology; however, a potentially significant application is to provide clean water and bottles for use with infant formula.


This proposed research integrates the science of solar disinfection to clean water and the end-use container; chemistry to determine the effects of heat and ultraviolet radiation on plastic bottles; biology to evaluate efficacy of the treatment method to reduce detrimental microorganisms; appropriate technology to develop a practical treatment and indicator method; and sustainability to incorporate the use of local resources and consideration of environmental, social, economic and institutional factors.


We will quantify the impact of limiting solar conditions, including intensity and duration for water disinfection, water microbiology, plastic bottle chemistry and beeswax melting properties and reusability while offering significant student research and educational opportunities.

Expected Results:

We plan on refining solar water pasteurization guidelines for optimizing local conditions and materials for appropriate applications in the developing world. Additionally, we hope to design and develop a reusable beeswax indicator prototype that will allow the end user to determine when their water is safe to drink.

Supplemental Keywords:

solar water pasteurization, contaminated drinking water, heating effects on plastic bottles, global burden of disease, sustainable development,

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report