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Solar-powered desalination units provide drinking water for thousands

A Western Australia-based company is helping communities in the Indo-Pacific access safe drinking water and new economic opportunities.

Moerk Water Solutions (MWS) offers simplified desalination units fitted with reverse osmosis membranes that can operate for six to 10 hours a day.

Since its beginnings seven years ago, the company has provided a reliable drinking water source to more than 15,000 people.

Its approach is to train local community members to run and maintain desalination units. This not only gives the community access to water, but also provides operators with a source of income.   

MWS International Business Director Barbara Brezger said the company is committed to bringing fresh water to remote communities, schools and hospitals.

“Our vision for MWS is to provide simplified technology to the Indo-Pacific region, to train the local people and to equip and strengthen communities,” Brezger said.

The company demonstrated its technology at City Beach in Perth recently, where former Foreign Affairs Minister and Member for Curtin Julie Bishop was in attendance.

During her time as foreign minister, Bishop was vocal about the need for the Australian water sector to share knowledge with the country’s neighbours.

“Water is a fundamental resource. The UN Sustainable Development Goal 6 aims for access for all to water and sanitation; that’s how important it is in underpinning sustainable communities and the reduction of poverty,” Bishop said at the event.

“It’s so important for our region to be sustainable, but we need to use the latest technology and innovations … I can envisage how this system, deployed throughout the Pacific, East Africa and the Indian Ocean, will change lives.”

Julie Bishop with Robert Iromelafo.

International student Robert Iromelafo led the demonstration using a portable desalination unit designed for emergency response situations.

Iromelafo, who is studying water quality and treatment at Curtin University, said he would bring the technology back to his home country, the Solomon Islands.

He said groundwater in the Solomon Islands is no longer safe to drink due to high salinity levels and that a lack of access to reliable energy makes treating water difficult.

“This simple unit is perfect for my country – [I will] bring it back to my country and improve and change the lives of people there,” Iromelafo said.

“From that … more children will end up in school and no longer have the struggle of water.”

Australian Water Association WA Water Awards winner and Surfrider Foundation President Tom Wheeler was also present at the demonstration. He recently applied for an Australian Aid Friendship Grant to work with Moerk Water to install the technology in Nusa Lembongan, Indonesia.

Bishop was responsible for launching the Friendship Grant program, which provides funding for Australian organisations including charities, local government groups and businesses to expand their existing aid activities in the Indo-Pacific.

“By partnering with MWS, we have come up with a solution of ... providing reusable water bottles to eliminate single use plastic at the source, while providing a sustainable water supply to the community,” Wheeler said.

MWS will continue to implement its technology in remote communities both within Australia and across the Indo-Pacific region.