Saving Water | NIT student innovates 'Food Grain Washer and Water Purifier'

Water is a vital resource, a precious commodity and its saving is essential. While the concept of water stress is relatively new, it is the difficulty of obtaining sources of fresh water for use during a period of time and may result in further depletion and deterioration of available water resources. Its management is imperative and if water harnessing and saving is not considered as an element of innovations, the future survival would be difficult for nations.  With global population grown from 1 billion in 1800 to 7.616 billion in 2018 and further expected to keep growing, with a forecast of 8.6 billion by mid-2030, 9.8 billion by mid-2050 and 11.2 billion by 2100, if nothing substantial  is done for saving this resource, the third world war will be fought for water.  With the unabated inhabitants’ growths, the demand of such valuable resource has increased both from agriculture and industry; researchers and experts indicated that this crisis is only likely to worsen.

Presently, more than 1.2 billion people of the world lack access to clean drinking water. Many nations are already experiencing a shortage of water resources and will see their water issues worsen, causing hardships for millions. South Africa along with many other African and Middle East countries are presently encountering the water shortage problem, wherein the government has formed task forces for even distribution of clean water to households under security. Water shortages may be caused by climate change, such as altered weather patterns including droughts or floods, increased pollution, and increased human demand and overuse/ misuse of water.

A water crisis generally results with the available potable, unpolluted water within a region is less than that region’s demand. Water scarcity is being driven by two converging phenomena: growing freshwater use and depletion of usable freshwater resources. Water scarcity could be a result of two mechanisms: physical (absolute) water scarcity and economic water scarcity, whereas the physical water scarcity is a result of inadequate natural water resources to supply a region’s demand, and economic water scarcity is a result of poor management of the sufficient available water resources, which also includes excessive use and wastage of pure water used for domestic and agriculture purposes.

Innovations and management of water resources is arsenal to fight for such a global crisis. Many institutions around the world have already started to innovatively design processes and systems for water harvesting and water management. Many innovative ideas have come forth for obtaining a plausible solution to save water, right from Rooftop rain water harvesting to creating artificial Glaciers. Innovators are also trying to design and develop appliance and machines which could be used effectively for water saving while utilising the water for domestic or agriculture purpose.

Shubam Kumar, an engineering student and an innovator at NIT Srinagar, working with IIED Centre NIT Srinagar, has recently designed and fabricated a prototype of a “Multipurpose Food Grain Washer and Water Purifying Machine” for saving substantial amount of water that gets wasted as a result of washing grains and other stuff in the kitchen, during cooking. This machine could also be effectively utilised in restaurants and hotel kitchens for saving substantial amount of water.

The motivational factor for Shubhum came through his mother as it was his vision to make her happy during the kitchen time as she would get upset in the kitchen while cooking due to excessive water requirements and its continuous wastage, since water availability in his village was limited.

“Whenever my mother entered the kitchen for routine kitchen activities involving washing and cleaning of food grains and other stuff, large amount of water was needed for washing which was wasted due to either ineffective system designs or lack of water management habits. I wanted to solve this grave problem, and that was perhaps one of the key factors, I preferred to select engineering as my career and innovate in this area,” says Shubhum.

After joining NIT Srinagar, he came across its Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship Development (IIED) Centre, where he was motivated to make his dream come true and he started to work on the design of such a machine. He innovatively designed and fabricated a multipurpose washing and water purification machine, which could effectively and efficiently meet various kitchen chores such as winnowing, washing of various eatable items and subsequently purifying the same used water for drinking. The machine also purifies any unclean water from other source which could be used for drinking. The estimated cost of this machine, when manufactured on a large scale would be about Rs 6,000 -Rs10,000 only.

 Shubham has already won a number of accolades such as 1st prize in IDEA CHALLENGE-2018  in NIT Srinagar, 2nd prize in INNOWIZION in MMMUT in 2019, 3rd prize in START UP INDIA programme in JKEDI Pampore in 2018. He has successfully presented his work at IIT Kanpur for a national exhibition, and was also selected for a grant, in the NEW GEN IEDC in University of Kashmir. Shubhum’s innovation was recently shortlisted by the MHRD sponsored Smart India Hackathon 2019 in the hardware edition and will showcase his innovation at Chennai next month.

“Since my childhood I had observed that generally about 5-7 liters of water get wasted in a day from a typical Indian kitchen while washing food grains before cooking,” says Shubhum. If we are able to save say only two litres of water per day from a single household, it would save about 360 million litres of water in a year from only about 10 lakh Indian kitchens. Hence, this machine is going to save gallons and gallons of water, if implemented successfully in Indian kitchens.

The machine has two parts, the upper and the lower. The upper part contains food grain washer, winnowing process, flour sieving process whereas the lower part contains water purifier and water storage tank. The height of the machine is about 2.5 feet with a length and breadth of 1 foot each and has a steel and fiber body. The upper part of machine utilizes a DC motor with few mechanical processes for winnowing and washing of food grains whereas the lower part contains sedimentation process, RO and UV systems, for purification and recycling of waste water from any source. “I have worked day and night during my winter vacation and built the machine as a proper working model”.   The machine can wash 1 kg of food grain just in 30 to 40 seconds. The water purifier system designed for purifying impure water can purify about 100 GPD (gallon per day) of water.

“We are further working with the NewGen IED Centre, University of Kashmir to obtain patent and commercialise the machine,” he said.

Author is the head of IIED Centre, NIT Srinagar