Billionaire activist Bill Gates is backing an innovation in water filtration that turns human poop into drinking water. The OmniProcessor could bring clean water to millions of people and help solve the problem of debilitating diseases.
The OmniProcessor, designed and built by Seattle engineering firm Janicki Bioenergy, burns human waste to produce electricity and water. The processor powers itself through the use of a steam engine and does not emit an odor. The machine could handle 14 tons of waste from 100,000 people, producing up to 86,000 liters of drinkable water a day, and net 250 kw of electricity.
At a demonstration of the OmniProcessor shown on GatesNotes, a smiling Bill Gates drank water from the machine, which was previously untreated sewage.
“It’s water,” said Gates in the video.
He wrote on his blog: “The water tasted as good as any I’ve had out of a bottle. And having studied the engineering behind it, I would happily drink it every day. It’s that safe.”
Gates said that 2.5 billion people – or 40 percent of the global population – have no access to safe sanitation, and many people use facilities that do not safely dispose of human waste. About 1.5 million children die every year from contaminated food and water, and half of all patients in hospitals are there because of problems with water and sanitation. It is extremely costly to try and create sewage infrastructure in cities and towns that already exist, so Gates thinks the low cost water treatment machine could be revolutionary.
“If you can get thousands of these things out there, then you’ve ensured the people really will grow up in a healthy way,” Gates told Wired. “They’ll live much higher quality lives. You will save a lot of lives. And you’ll have local entrepreneurs who are maintaining these things.”
The OmniProcessor, which costs .5 million, will undergo a pilot launch in Dakar, Senegal later this year.
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