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UCT students design portable pump to give destitute clean water

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By: Aneeqa du Plessis

As the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ continue to grow relentlessly across the globe, a local group of students at the University of Cape Town (UCT) have done their bit to ensure destitute citizens have access to sanitation at a low cost by developing a portable pump that is able to separate muck from water which can be used for various tasks i.e. washing, cleaning, gardening etc.

The group of learners established the holding company called ‘Üna’ which called their product ‘Grace’.

Speaking on VOC’s Drive Time show on Wednesday afternoon, Ross Doyle, Üna Co-founder & Director of operations explains where the name of the pump came from.

“Essentially the name ‘Grace’ comes from the idea that any good that you do in the world you have to have a little ‘grace’ and we would like to filter that kindness, compassion, and empathy through this product,” smiled Doyle.

Furthermore, ‘Grace’ is human-propelled, portable, and manual.

But this is not without the help of water treatment company NuWater, which is based in Muizenberg, Cape Town. NuWater assisted with funding and provided the necessary connections within the industry for the team to manufacture the pump.

According to Ross ‘grace’ has 99.9% efficacy.

“The water pump works like a hand-held air pump but creates suction and passes water through ultra-filtration membranes. The technology restrains bacteria, viruses, cysts and sediments. The water can be reused for washing clothes, body, dishes and watering vegetables and herbs, but is not meant for drinking,” explained Doyle.

“It is a portable unit that is designed to be off the grid and was inspired by a mattress pump that you would use for camping. It needed to be easy to use. It weighs 5 kg. We wanted to make it accessible that can be used from all walks of life,” added Doyle.

The pump was manufactured and assembled in China before being shipped back to South Africa.

“We are constantly reiterating our design and we intend to make it cheaper than it is currently. We want to get it into the hands of people that need it the most,” said Doyle.

The students hope to rollout their product in informal and rural settlements. Furthermore, according to Ross they have had a fantastic response to ‘Grace’ out on the field.

“It’s been a long and painful process, but we realize that SA is one of the most unequal societies in the world and water scarcity is only going to get worse and it did validate the reason we created ‘grace’ and it educates citizens around the importance of sanitation and hygiene,” said Doyle.

He added that this is not a quick fix but rather a stepping-stone to eradicating inequality within citizens of the country and globe beyond.


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