Inflation: Healthy Alternatives for Potable Water

By: Grace Ohagwu

The recent weather developments have seen sayings such as ‘drink water and mind your business’ getting revived. The University Health Service (UHS) lent its voice to the clamor for taking more fluids to survive the heat by advising that students drink three to four liters of water every day. Let’s do a little math, shall we? Four liters of water means 400 centiliters. 400 centiliters translates to eight sachets of water with each sachet containing 50 centiliters of water. A sachet of water is how much again? Say, still two for 50 naira. That’s about 200 naira per day to stay “hydrated” alone. Make Jaja dey play, right?

Well, “good” news. NIMET (Nigerian Meteorological Agency) has said we haven’t seen anything yet. Air temperatures will keep averaging 40°C for some time and students will keep secreting gallons of sweat every day as they go about school trying to survive. Tests are coming for some departments and more students will be at risk of serious dehydration because of the hot weather (obviously) and the exorbitant prices of table water (sachet and bottle). 

Apart from the obvious discomfort in the mouth and throat caused by thirst, lack of sufficient hydration can lead to measles, rashes, pox, weakness, dry lips, and reduced immunity, according to Web MD. UHS attributed the surge in Upper Respiratory Tract Infections (URTIs) to the heat wave and prescribed drinking more water. A certain organ that is responsible for your learning process, your brain, is made up of 80% water. Some health scientists say by the time you feel thirsty, your brain is already dehydrated. Another source says as little as two percent decrease in brain hydration can cause short-term memory loss and trouble with math.

All of this information doesn’t seem necessary. Most of us know the importance of adequate hydration. The problem is not the lack of knowledge then, but the lack of water. With a sachet of water reportedly selling as high as 50 naira in some school places, it is almost impossible for some to maintain the recommended daily intake of four liters (8 sachets) of water. As usual, we can count on the economy and our beautiful country to make things worse very soon thereby making potable water, a basic necessity, scarce. 

Even the sachet and bottled water we drink, how much can we trust them? A little survey I did for 15 of my classmates showed me that 13 of them went to Jaja recently for water-related issues. 11 of them drink only sachet and bottled water. 8 of the 11 even cook with sachet water only. But what if you could treat your water yourself? What if we could skip these unreliable and incredibly expensive packaged water options and make water potable ourselves?

There are three simple ways we can purify water ourselves at home: boiling, filtration, and use of chemicals. Let’s begin with boiling. Boiling water is very simple. It’s straightforward and does not need any complex equipment. Double advantage for you if you have an electric kettle and you don’t need to use gas/kerosene. Boiling will remove hardness (calcium and magnesium salts) from water, and kill most of the microorganisms present. The problem with just boiling water, however, is that boiling will not remove suspended particles in the water. Boiling will also not remove pyrogens. Pyrogens are breakdown products of bacteria death and they can cause fever and other health issues if ingested in a large quantity. A solution presents itself in the next method.

Filtration of water with membrane filters is one way many homes purify their water themselves. Membrane filters have tiny pore sizes that allow water to flow through and retain microorganisms on the filter. So, filtration solves the two problems boiling water presents: suspended particles and pyrogens. Membrane filters will retain any particle that is larger than a water molecule, and water molecules are really small. Plus, since membrane filters do not kill bacteria but simply remove them, we do not have to worry about large concentrations of pyrogens (leftovers of bacteria death) in the water. The major limitation of using membrane filters to students will be the price. 

Membrane filters available on Jumia are upwards of 20,000 naira each. It is not a bad investment considering the amount you will save over time. Most have long life spans. A lecturer boasted that she had been using one for five years now. All she has to do is clean it regularly. It would save more costs if halls could get a few of them to run mini water processing plants in the school halls. Aspiring hall leaders, are you getting ideas? Another cost-saving option is a small “water purifier” that uses magnetization and a stone to remove suspended particles. It is easily detachable and some are as affordable as 3,000 naira on Jumia. Using your detachable water purifiers, you can easily attach them to the tap in your hall, fetch your drinking water into a clean bucket or keg, detach your water purifying apparatus, and walk away. 

Speaking of walking away, I know most of us will do that once we hear chlorine for purifying water. Most chemicals for purifying water at home are made of organic chlorine compounds. Chlorine has high bacteriostatic (bacteria growth-stopping) and bactericidal (bacteria-killing) activity. What many dislike is the taste that the residual chlorine leaves. But many membrane filters like this one (that also feature reverse osmosis apparatus) boast the ability to remove residual chemicals. Do I hear double-factor authentication? Use the appropriate amount of the chemical for the quantity of water as prescribed by the chemical manufacturer then subject the water to filtration using a reverse osmosis membrane filter.

Inflation continues uncontrolled and income remains stagnant. There’s only so much we can take. Someone said bad situations force ingenuity and creativity. Maybe using equipment manufactured by other people is not particularly ingenious, but imagine how people would look at you like you were a god as you walked away from the tap with your water purifier and potable drinking water. 


NB: This article is a contributors’ piece

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