Remote community in Campeche uses solar energy to purify water

In the midst of the Maya jungle, the heart of the Yucatan Peninsula in the community of La Mancalona, a remote Mexican village in the municipality of Calakmul, Campeche, its residents have been producing for nearly two years, their own clean drinking water with the help of a solar-powered water purification system contrived by researchers at MIT.

Back in 2013, a team of researchers from MIT installed the water purification system that works with two solar panels that generate electric power that gives energy to a set of pumps that push water into the filtration process of reverse osmosis. This system can purify up to 1,000 liters a day, the water entering the system can be both brackish well water and collected rainwater.

MIT Solar Water 2 press
Original Image: “Title unknown” by Leah Kelley, used under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 license, via MIT.

After proving the technology worked, the MIT team installed the system in the Campeche community and also taught them how to operate it, perform maintenance and replace parts. Since then, residents from the town Unión Veinte de Junio (a.k.a. La Mancalona), manage the water purification plant, they also sell the clean drinkable water that has International water quality standards to other community members for a price of 5 pesos for a 20 liter bottle, and this price was agreed by community members which keeps the water plant sustainable.


La Mancalona was chosen thanks to a local aid organization which identified the community with the potential to have such technology given that they didn’t have reliable clean drinkable water resources; besides being a community that gets a good amount of sunlight, good quality to have when it comes to operating a solar-powered water purification system.


Steven Dubowsky, a professor emeritus of mechanical engineering at MIT, stated that the results of La Mancalona community have demonstrated that “non-expert communities can independently operate high-tech systems”. Professor Dubowsky said, “We’re using MIT intellect to produce technology systems that are of the highest quality, and we can train people to use them, and change the culture down in these poor communities,” quoted on an article by MIT News.

The photovoltaic powered reverse osmosis (PVRO) technology, not only provides clean drinking water, but it also brings the benefits of drinking more water, as the community was able to purchase soda at less expensive prices than water, this now has changed. The people are healthier and more hydrated.

And beyond having clean drinking water and being healthier, “They’re also trying to develop a business plan focused on selling clean water to tourists who come to the local Mayan ruins,” said MIT researcher Huda Elasaad, which can develop into a new economy.


By Dania Vargas Austryjak




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