Tech firm creates purification system which makes canal water drinkable

A technology firm has developed a new form of water purification that it is hoped will end reliance on bottled water – after testing it on Glasgow canals.

Around 24,000 homes in Scotland depend on bottled water which is expensive and unsustainable for the environment, or private water supplies which are expensive and difficult to maintain.

Of 1.3 billion plastic bottles bought daily, nearly 45% end up in the ocean after a single use, breaking down into microplastics, while traditional water purifiers often end up in landfill as they deteriorate quickly.

Technology company IF created a miniature vapour compression distillation system without consumable parts or chemicals, which works in 45 minutes to begin purifying previously untreatable water – and would get rid of parasites such as those seen in a recent outbreak in south-west England.

Pre-treated water compared to water which has been through the IF technology (IF/PA Wire).

Years of research, design, prototyping and tests helped with the development of technology proven to provide the purest water from previously unusable sources, including from the Glasgow canal water. IF also carries out hundreds of tests through independent, accredited laboratories.

The company received funding from Zero Waste Scotland and Edinburgh Climate Change Institute (ECCI) among others.

It has been taken up by Portsonachan Hotel & Lodges, Loch Awe, Highlands, which has tried alternatives to bottled water with no success due to peat in the water supplies, and has become the first business in Scotland to use the new technology.

Duncan Peters, founder and CEO of IF, said: “Access to safe drinking water is a global problem that is only getting harder as global warming, ageing infrastructure, industrial waste and modern contaminants gathers pace. This is why accelerating the path to clean, reliable water is so incredibly important in our lifetime.

“Water is also becoming harder to purify. It’s estimated that 93% of the world’s piped water now contains some form of microplastics, hormones, pesticides or other heavy metals. Traditional purifiers are just not designed to solve these problems, and as a result we’re turning more and more to environmentally damaging plastic bottles.

Portsonachan Hotel and Lodges on Loch Awe has adopted the technology (IF/PA)

“Globally, we’re using one million bottles of water every minute and that’s because we don’t trust the water quality that we have. Around 80% of single use plastic ends up in landfill, or eventually in the ocean poisoning the earth and making the problem worse for the next generation.

“Far more people are starting to pay attention to what’s in their drinking water as we learn more about so-called forever chemicals – which fail to fully break down – and other contaminants. At IF, we want to see a future where you can turn on a tap anywhere in the world and know that you have crystal clear water that is free from pollutants, 365 days a year.

“We’re starting that mission in Scotland where around 3.5% of the population currently rely on off-grid water sources every day. Because our unique purification technology can clean water from previously untreatable sources, we are confident that we can make a significant and immediate impact on access to safe and reliable water supplies globally.”

Portsonachan Hotel and Lodges, located on Loch Awe, Scottish Highlands, buys over 90,000 litres of bottled water each year due to peated water supplies which create “brown water”, adding an additional £13,000 to its operating costs.

Hotelier David Parker said: “Our water is currently a peaty brown colour which is met with various reactions from guests – ranging from amusement to horror. They expect clean, pure water during their holiday. But our challenge is far from unique. This is a problem that is replicated across many hospitality businesses and indeed homes around the west of Scotland.

“We’ve tried several different and more traditional purification methods over the years, including a £30,000 centralised system that has never worked. Relying on bottled water has been our only solution up until now.

“Sustainability is core to our values but we also need reliable, crystal clear water. We need a solution that is low maintenance, reliable and easy to install.

“We’re proud to be the first hospitality business in Scotland to be introducing IF’s technology so that we can stop purchasing thousands of litres of bottled water each year and give our visitors access to high-quality water.”