GGNZ Guides: Making water safe to drink

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Understanding the lack of clean drinking water on some countries, and finding out how to make unclean water safe to drink.


Water containers; materials for filters; water purifiying tablets, or bleach (plus instructions), or a means of boiling water.


Background: The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) called for a reduction of the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water by half between 1990 and 2015. Yet, an estimated 884 million people in the world, 37% of whom live in Sub-Saharan Africa, still use unimproved sources of drinking water. This activity also develops a life skill, which could be needed in an emergency situation.

Make a water filter: 1. Find or make some dirty water by adding cooking oil, soil etc. Make a filter by cutting a plastic drink bottle in half. Turn the top half upside down so it’s like a funnel. Build your filter in the funnel using layers from very fine such as a coffee filter, and up to gravel and pebbles. Experiment with different layers of filter material to see what is most effective. (Note that a filter will remove dirty particles but it must then be purified to remove bacteria by boiling or adding appropriate water purifying tablets, bleach etc.)

Make a water filter 2: Stretch a piece of fabric over a frame such as a funnel, or ring, and pour the water through this.

1. Give patrols all the equipment and challenge them to find a way to filter the water. Compare results.
2. Include the activity as part of a survival wide game.
3. Set up a simulation game: Making Rice the Hard Way Teams collect water and rice to feed their ‘family’. Provide a bucket of “dirty” water coloured by coke or something safe to drink – this represents the well.
Some distance away provide a gas cooker or cooking pot. Guides carry water in a plastic mug or make paper cups) balanced on heads. Meanwhile others are working in a ‘sweatshop’ making little crafts to sell to the tourists. (Items must pass quality control of the ‘foreman’). For every three items, a bean is earned. Three beans buy a small handful of rice to put in the cooking pot. Can the team cook enough rice for their dinner?
Precautions: remind girls that the water is not suitable to drink until purified as well as filtered.



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