The St Andrews Prize for the Environment

University of St Andrews


2012 Finalist



Water for the 21st Century

Access to safe clean water is a basic human right. Close to a billion people lack this essential resource. The lives of millions more are affected by inconsistent and uncertain supplies. The absence of safe clean water is life threatening, it prevents economic development and imposes huge social and health costs onto those societies which can least afford it. According to UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake ‘every day more than 3,000 children die of diarrhoeal diseases’ due to a lack of clean water and sanitation. The challenge is enormous but international commitment to bring clean water to all is strong and growing and access to safe clean water has received increasing attention as a key UN Millennium Development Goal.

Aqua21 has an important role to play in delivering the 21st century solution to this global problem. Aqua21 has developed a deployable ozone based disinfection technology that is non-chemical, low-carbon and which is reliable and affordable. The application for this solution is global. Ozone cleansing is a well tried and trusted method of producing safe water, but getting it to where it is most needed at low capital and energy cost, at any volume of treatment required, is revolutionary. One industry leader referred to Aqua21’s solution as a ‘potential paradigm shift for water disinfection’.

The superiority of ozone treatment over other water disinfection methods is scientifically accepted worldwide. Ozone is more powerful at far lower concentrations and acts 3000 times faster as it passes through the water. Aqua 21’s Ozone treatment unit has a dramatically lower carbon footprint than the alternative of producing, distributing and dosing water with chlorine. It leaves no chemical impact on effluent and will not harm subsequent downstream aquaculture, flora or fauna.

Ozone does not stay in the water after treatment so it does not alter taste or odour nor strip out mineral content. Having killed any pathogens, the water remains ‘active’ for a short time making the water a safe and mild biocidal agent. Ozone treatment at or near the point of use can replace disinfectants and chemicals used in hand washing and cleaning, while simultaneously meeting all drinking quality water health & safety standards.

The capital equipment costs, energy requirements and unit size of traditional ozone systems have restricted competitive application of ozone to very large volumes of water alone. Aqua21’s technology overcomes these hurdles. It is scalable in application from industrial requirements to emergency medical mobile units to the kitchen sink. It is robust and can be powered by renewable energy making it the ideal village pump solution.

Dr Simon Bland, of the world leading Plasma Physics Team at Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine (London), has delivered ozone outputs with a 70% energy saving compared to traditional ozone systems. This from our prototypes, the manufacturing costs of which are a fraction of existing devices.

A SMART:Scotland award in 2011 allowed Aqua21 to commence lab tests of our first prototypes and in mid-2012 we expect to commence field trials with Scottish Water, which is ‘keen to be involved in the ongoing development of the novel ozone generation system’. The Aqua21 team is focussed on taking this technology to market through partnerships and investment and we are working alongside the water supply industry, water customers and NGOs to define the different market sectors and user needs.

Directors Courtney Peyton and Trevor Costello view becoming a finalist of The St Andrews Prize for the Environment 2012 as a tremendous honour and privilege for Aqua21. These prestigious awards are extremely important to emerging technologies which aim to bring scientific innovation to addressing global environmental needs. The international recognition and encouragement from such prominent experts as the St Andrews Prize Trustees is hugely valuable and impossible to quantify.

The St Andrews Prize will make a critical difference in taking the intelligent application of great science through to practical delivery. In 2012, Aqua21 plan to accelerate refining the core technology through further prototypes, monitoring and field trials. Money from this prize will directly support the work needed to confirm the robustness, versatility, and superiority of the Aqua21 technology. This crucial work will allow our innovation to be rapidly advanced to commercial production so that Aqua21, working with key partners and stakeholders, can get the technology where it is most needed and can do the most good.

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