Hamza Yunusa and some other corps members toured Dukku Local Government Area of Gombe State sometime during their National Youth Service program in 2015.
While on the cruise, Yunusa learned that even with the water Earth Dam built in the area, water sources are very low. “I discovered that even if you drill boreholes there, you will hardly access the aquifer. I think that's why the government built an Earth dam for them,” he said.
The water from the Earth Dam is used for laundry, washing dishes, and cooking by the residents. Yunusa was startled to see a young boy drinking from the Dam at the same time when a herd of cattle also came to drink there.
That incident made him swear that he would work to provide a solution to the Nigerian water crisis.
These efforts led Yunusa to develop the Filter X360 in 2017. Filter X360 is a machine that uses gravity to purify water without requiring any power supply or chemicals.
This solution couldn't have come at a better time. According to a survey, it's only 10% of the over 200 million population in Nigeria have access to complete basic water, sanitation, and hygiene services.
Yunusa also got to know that those living in rural areas are three times more disadvantaged than those living in urban centres.
How the machine works
Filter X360 is a machine that uses ultrafiltration technology to remove bacteria, viruses, and protozoans from any given sample of fresh water sourced from rivers, lakes, and ponds. It can purify 1000 litres of water per hour and also remove heavy metals from it.
The water will first pass through a pre-filter, which removes grass, stones, pebbles, and other solid materials. From there, it goes to the second chamber, which is the main filtration unit where the membrane filters are arranged.
Yunusa noted that it then passes through a series of membrane filters of 0.01-micrometre size to get the heavy metals removed and filtered out of the water.
By the time the water flows through the third chamber, it's then directed towards a tap or overhead tank with a pipe for that particular household. The pipe is normally directed to the kitchen, where the purified water is tapped for drinking and cooking.
An air pump is built through the backwash procedure because the filters may accumulate dirt during the purification process. The air pump then flushes out the dirt after the machine is used for a while.
“I advise flushing the filter two or three times in a week. But if the water isn't so bad, it should be done once. There are situations where the water is terrible, and it needs to be done almost every day it's being used. If you want to preserve the filter, you have to be careful with the backwash by maintaining and cleaning the filters,” Yunusa explained to Prime Progress.
Where it is installed
In 2018, the machine was initially installed at the Rochas Foundation College For Africa in Owerri, Imo State–an institution administering free education to orphaned children from across Africa.
“The installation has helped to purify 25,000 litres of water while channelling pipes to the students' hostels and kitchens,” recounted a staff of the foundation.
The institution spent over a million naira annually in purchasing large quantities of bottled water but owning the Filter X360 prompted a chance to utilize those funds in standardizing the school laboratories.
Through support from the Federal Ministry of Water Resources, the machine was also installed in Iguoriakhi, Ovia South-West, in Nigeria's Edo State.
The Federal Government of Nigeria earlier built a borehole in the community, but the water was found to be contaminated by high concentrations of iron, hence the need for a solution to reduce the iron and make the water one that conforms to the World Health Organization's guidelines of drinking water quality.
According to Yunusa, they were able to reduce the concentration with their high-efficiency filters that have a long durability of up to five years.
Residential houses were not an exception. The machine was installed seven months back at a house based in Maitama. Taoheed Muhammad maintains the backwash operations every week.
“The machine is working effectively without any setbacks. The water never gets dirty. It's used for cooking and drinking in the house. We are enjoying it,” Taoheed told Prime Progress.
A security guard at a residence in Guzape, Titus Nyamu, also admitted the effectiveness of the machine.
“We are currently using the machine as I'm speaking to you. We have stopped buying bottled water since the installation, which was five months ago,” he narrated.
Titus added that they wash the machine on Saturdays after using it throughout the week. He feels it's something he can recommend to households.
This solution could be expensive
Yunusa confirmed that this solution is enveloped with challenges. 'Developing hardware systems in Nigeria is difficult because the necessary types of equipment aren't available in the country. The membrane filters we used in designing the machine were imported from China,' he said.
Lack of stable power and a standard production factory also makes the solution expensive. A single unit of the system costs N2.2 million, and rural communities cannot easily afford the system. Those who can afford it in urban areas are incapable of buying in numbers.
But hope seems to be there as Yunusa is propelling towards acquiring the necessary tools and investments that will lead him to set up a facility where the filters can be produced at a cheap cost.
Yunusa said they are open to partnerships with Non-governmental organizations and the government to install the system in rural communities that lack sanitized water.
He is also determined to invent smaller units of the system which people can move around with. Yunusa concluded, "With the smaller units, wherever you go, you can use it to purify water and drink without thinking of a health consequence.”