Disaster Situation Water Supply (Concept)

Introduction: Disaster Situation Water Supply (Concept)

About: I am an automation engineer but I will give anything a go. I don't know if you call if pessimism or just being an engineer, but I look for problems everywhere, then I look for some weird, left field way to s...

Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink

This is a concept design for a device to be deployed in disaster areas where flooding has created a risk to life and generally with this flooding, though there is ample water, it is not potable due to dirt and bacteria.

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Step 1: The Concept

The idea here is to create a device that, in a flood situation (such as that after hurricane Katrina) may be deployed to supply clean drinking water and a safe place for people to get out of the water.

I have 2 ideas about deployment:

  1. These devices are stored in a compound in a flood area, when a flood occurs, they all float away, drifting around for stranded people to find.
  2. They may be dropped from a helicopter or supply plane into a flooded area. IBC's are very tough and would survive the drop.

The idea is based around an IBC (Intermediate Bulk Container), these are common on farms and in chemical plants all over the world.

This IBS would have the bottom valve removed and replaced with a micro filter to remove dirt and microbes from the water.

The IBC would start to fill and sink, sinking would continue until the 4 sealed plastic 55 gallon drums hit the water level, these become the raft keeping things afloat.

My theory is (and please correct me if this is wrong) that the tank, once full would become neutrally buoyant, the weight of the additional equipment on board, including the tank itself would make it want to sink but the sealed containers make it remain afloat.

The device then floats around until a survivor or survivors find it, they climb on top and can use the hand pump to pump out clean potable water. The unit would also hold dehydrated food to make up with the water, first aid supplies, emergency lighting, a locator beacon, etc. Units could be customized to the area they are going to, e.g. add tent shelters or heat supplies.

Step 2: Required Equipment

Below is a list of the equipment required to build this device, I will go into some detail on following steps:

Please note that this list is not definitive or exhaustive, the links I and prices I have give are for information purposes only and are subject to change and they are not the only supplier of each device, there are alternatives.

IBC: €230 Tanks.ie

Filter: €98 www.alpinetrek.co.uk

Pump: €28 www.slingsby.ie

Drumsx4: €60 www.slingsby.ie

Batteryx2: €162 http://www.photonicuniverse.com/

Solar Beacon: €92 http://www.lakelite.com/products/solar-beacon-light/

Search light: €92 http://www.westmarine.com/buy/west-marine--led-deck-spotlight--12640231?recordNum=21

Mylar blankets: https: €8 www.amazon.com/Emergency-Mylar-Blankets-84-52/dp/B01M12OVJW?th=1&psc=1

First aid box: €25 http://emergencycare.ie/product/hse-11-25-person-workplace-kit-in-green-saver-box/

Dehydrated food: €25 http://goodto-go.com/shop/gift-package-single/

Bouy: €47 https://ie.glasdon.com/water-safety/lifebuoys

Personal Locator Beacon: €257 https://www.rei.com/product/843146/acr-electronics-resqlink-gps-personal-locator-beacon

UV Water Treatment Pen: €62 https://www.steripen.com/product/steripen-pure-plus-blue

Step 3: Flotation Concept

This is where my understanding of the mechanics may be wrong but here goes:

The IBC is ballasted by the 2 batteries mounted near the bottom in water tight containers. I have used these batteries before and they are approx 25kg each so this 50kg pulls down on the IBC and keeps it right side up.

This causes the IBC to try to sink, water is allowed into the IBC via the space where the lower valve was but is has to pass through the filter, purifying in the process.

The filter allows 2 litres of water per minute to be filtered, an IBC holds 1000l but say take out 100l capacity for battery storage. This means that the unit would take 7.5hrs to fill completely.

The IBC fills until the barrels get to the water line and create buoyancy, you now have a raft with 900l of clean water underneath.

The 55 gallon barrels convert to approx. 215l each, there are 4 barrels so that is 860l of displacement, if my maths are correct that is 860kg capacity before the rig sinks.

Say the batteries weigh 50kg and the IBC and other equipment another 50kg, this leaves 760kg of flotation for people. Say the average person is around 80kg this means 9 people could technically be on board, now this is like the capacity plate in the elevator that says the box the size of a small fitting room has a capacity of 21 people, it may do it but you would never get 9 people on top of one of these things.

There is also an outer hand rail for people to pull themselves aboard.

Step 4: Equipment Explaination

Most of the kit on board is self explanatory, but some i will justify:

The flash beacon is solar as you want to be as visible as possible 24/7 without the risk of battery failure

The batteries are on board to power the search light, this again is important in seeing and being sen in a rescue. I did think of adding solar kit to maintain battery charge but figured between bad weather not having much sun and people sitting on the solar panels, this was a bust. I also looked at a small wind turbine but this is risky to survivors and could hamper rescue via helicopter.

The personal locator beacon (PLB) is key here, t the push of a button, rescuers will know your location.

The filter I have shown is only an example it is for camping and is slow and needs modification, I'm sure there is a better one out there. The idea is correct however, water pressure alone drives the water through a microfilter that removes particles and tiny bacteria.

The filter will not remove lepto sporidium as it is smaller than a water molecule and will pass straight through the filter. The UV pen will kill this off however.

Step 5: Final Thoughs

I unfortunately do not have the time, money or space to build this but i would love to see it get out to the world. if you do build one please send me a picture.

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    5 Discussions


    3 years ago

    I just thought maybe also have one of the 55 gal drum empty so it carries the food or whatever kind of survival gear you want them to carry like the thema blankets, etc. And the other 3 barrels filled with foam to keep them afloat no matter how much water or weight the IBC filled with the drinkable water. Hope anything helps for feedback.

    Left-field Designs
    Left-field Designs

    Reply 3 years ago

    I like the idea of the empty drum, makes a heap of sense. As for the flexi solar panels, they aren't worth the extra cost. I'd love to seek funding for something like this, it's an idea I've had for several years but I live in Ireland, we have dragons den here but because we don't get major emergency flooding here like in the states or Pacific regions it would be hard to get someone to invest. As for the filter, I had thought of your points, it's good for something like 1800 litres so 2 complete fills without changing, oil and gasoline should float to the surface and as such should not enter the system. Human and animal waste suspended in the water should be dealt with (a) particulates removed by the filter (b) bacteria by the uv treatment light. This is the same as waste water treatment in plants, just on a smaller scale. Thanks for your comments


    Reply 3 years ago

    Will yes and no on the gas and oil floating on the surface since those types of chemicals are hydrophobic. But since the IBC first starts off floating at the surface until it begins to sink as it filters and fills up with water it would first be filtering the water on the surface where those chemicals would be exposed to the IBC in the beginning. I agree I live in the states and been in a few floods myself. I think your idea is great. Hopefully maybe you can get on one of those investment shows and find someone who will back you. I think this is a wonderful idea.

    But glad to be of any help

    Left-field Designs
    Left-field Designs

    Reply 3 years ago

    Good point, I'm sure there are ways to overcome that though with some testing. Between the weight of the unit and ballast, the inlet should be below the surface before letting water in, it could be dropped part filled (say another 100l) so the initial sink is faster to achieve passing this point. I don't know for sure, I think even if a little did get in, with the dilution through 900-1000l of water if would be marginal and definitely still safer than drinking the water directly. It seems that there are places in the US that are already at risk of having a little of these chemicals in the ground water that is used for drinking anyway: http://www.groundwater.org/get-informed/groundwate...

    I hope you don't take this point as argumentative, I am enjoying our discussion and it has made me think and do more research.


    3 years ago

    I really like your idea. But I think that during a flood the water will also contain other contaminants like gasoline, oil and other chemicals from run off of the vehicles and driveways, etc. And the water filters that you find in most small filtration straws and such may not be strong enough to do so, especially when some of the smaller filters can only be used so many times or with some types of filtration that have to be replaced after a few uses. You may need something thats more heavy duty and stronger that will filter not just the bacteria but also the chemical contaminants that might be in the flooded water and last more than just one use.

    Also your idea of using solar panels to recharge the batteries to operate the emergency light and beacon. Have you thought of those flexible roll up panels that can be stored when not in use? Look into that. I wish I had the money and resources Id invest with you this sounds like a great idea. Maybe you should consider taking this on Shark Tank and get them to invest in you. You have the plans you made here, use your ideas that you have so far and what everyone gives you for feedback. Then go to a hobby store or something and make up some models to show investors or to even do tests in a small water tank to show how it could work. Ive found when it comes to test some of my water proofing methods for my camping survival gear my bathtub makes a great water testing tank sometimes.

    Good luck