AMI member Timothy Kayondo was awarded £15,000 as part of the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, awarded by the Royal Academy of Engineering. As Africa’s biggest prize for engineering, it was launched in March 2014 to ‘stimulate, celebrate and reward innovation and entrepreneurship across sub-Saharan Africa’.

The prize was awarded to Timothy’s company ‘Aqua Methods Uganda’ for the development of a portable, digitalised water purification unit constructed from locally sourced materials that would otherwise have been considered refuse. Once installed, the devices are entirely solar powered, and are currently being used in more than 50 schools, two refugee camps and health centres in northern Uganda, where over 200,000 refugees are hosted.

The units carry out filtration and disinfection of contaminated water in a two-stage process using cleanly extracted sand and gravel in the first stage, followed by activated carbon from animal bones, cassava peelings and coconut shells from would-be waste material in the second. Disinfection is then achieved using solar ultra-violet light to damage the microbes and disinfect the water ecologically.

In the finished unit, all the filtration and disinfection components are then assembled in a cleverly designed, portable box through which local contaminated water can be passed in order for it to be purified for human consumption.

The units have a number of other innovative and unique features that helped Timothy secure the prize:

  • a metal detector designed using mobile sensors which aids in the analysis of key physical water parameters in situ (eliminates the need to transfer water samples to distant laboratories for analysis).
  • a digitalised water key as a way of creating a prepaid water metering solution through mobile phones (ensures easy accessibility of the clean water by the end users and self-sustainability of the enterprise itself).

Timothy hopes that these units will now give access to improved sanitation for many marginalised communities across Uganda where sustainable access to safe water is presently at risk.