Pasteurizing water if boiling is impractical

Information on how to pasteurize water… related to the SODIS technique, but using a solar cooker.

It turns out that water can be made much safer with temperatures below the boiling point, which is important if you don’t have much fuel for boiling.

Millions of people become sick each year from drinking contaminated water. Children are especially susceptible. An estimated 1.5 billion cases of diarrhea occur each year, resulting in the death of nearly 2 million children. Worldwide, about 1.3 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water, including nearly half the population of sub-Saharan Africa. Yet, in many of the most severely affected regions, sunshine is an abundant source of energy that can not only cook food but can also heat water to temperatures that kill harmful microbes, making water safe to drink. This procedure is called solar water pasteurization.

It has been known since the late 1880s, when Louis Pasteur conducted groundbreaking research on bacteria, that heat can kill pathogenic (disease-causing) microbes. Most people know contaminated water can be made safe by boiling. What is not well known is that contaminated water can be pasteurized at temperatures well below boiling, as can milk, which is commonly pasteurized at 71°C (160°F) for 15 seconds.

The chart below indicates the temperatures at which the most common waterborne pathogens are rapidly killed, thus resulting in at least 90 percent of the microbes becoming inactivated in one minute at the given temperature. (The 90 percent reduction is an indicator frequently used to express the heat sensitivity of various microbes.) Thus, five minutes at this temperature would cause at least a 99.999 percent (5 log) reduction in viable microbes capable of causing disease.

Microbe Killed Rapidly At
Worms, Protozoa cysts (Giardia, Cryptosporidium, Entamoeba) 55°C (131°F)
Bacteria (V. cholerae, E. coli, Shigella, Salmonella typhi), Rotavirus 60°C (140°F)
Hepatitis A virus 65°C (149°F)
(Significant inactivation of these microbes actually starts at about 5°C (9°F) below these temperatures, although it may take a couple of minutes at the lower temperature to obtain 90 percent inactivation.)