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Frequently asked questions about water-recycling Handwashing stations

Is it dangerous to drink recycled water?

Recycled water is meant only for handwashing and is not drinking water. It does not contain any pathogens, as those are retained by the membrane. Thus, it does not pose any health risk even if people drink it by mistake. However, the membrane does not entirely remove soap components from the water, and recycled water might feel soapy, smell and taste as soap. The taste is usually disgustful, and people are very unlikely to drink more than few sips and spit it out due to unpleasant taste.  While drinking soapy water is not harmful by small amounts, large volumes will lead to vomiting and nausea and should be avoided. The tap design reduces the volume of water flowing from it, and prevents drinking directly from it. Stickers and pictograms illustrate that water is not meant for drinking. We recommend providing access to drinking water next to the handwashing station e.g. by placing safe water storage container or water filter.

How often needs the membrane to be cleaned?

When the system is operated correctly, the membrane does not need to be cleaned. It uses the principle of gravity driven filtration allowing passage of small but sufficient volume of water through the membrane at very low pressure even when the membrane is fouling. It can however happen, that people dispose large volumes of oils or fats into the system for example misusing it for washing kitchen utensils. In such a case, the sand and grease trap might overflow exposing the membrane to large volumes of grease or oil. In such cases the flow might be reduced. If this happens, the membrane can be cleaned with a chlorine solution. Please contact us for the detailed protocol.

What is the lifespan of the system?

Membrane – 8-10 years in systems operated without chlorine, 5-8 years in systems operated with 0.5 mg/L free chlorine. 4-5 years in systems operated with 0.05% chlorine if special membrane for chlorinated water is used. Do not use systems designed for non-chlorinated water or for operation with 0.5 mg/L free chlorine. This will damage it within the first 2-3 month. Do not freeze the membrane. Once wet, do not dry the membrane entirely and store dry over long periods of time. This might lead to reduction of flow.

Pump – foot pump used are robust and simple in operation. If they are installed correctly and protected from direct sunlight exposure or excessive abrasive materials, they can be used for up to 5 years. When the pump is not fixed to the ground, is exposed frequently to sand or other abrasives as well as direct sunlight, it might damage its surface within 1-2 years. Once damaged, the foot pumps can be repaired easily by a repair kit we can supply additionally.

Housing – material is usually chosen locally and quality varies depending on location and use. In general, it is important that housing is water resistant and robust to ensure long lifespan. Please contact us and consult our construction manual and quality assurance guideline for more detail on the choice of material.

Can I buy a system?

Currently we have no ready made systems available to buy. Our concept is to support the systems being built locally and to support developing local capacity for maintenance and monitoring. We provide our support and consulting services depending on your needs and context. As a part of our services, we provide detailed Manuals, videos, online trainings or on-site training and building a pilot station together with you. Depending on your needs, we provide all required materials which are not available locally. This includes the ultrafiltration membrane, connectors, soap dispensers or pumps.

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