• Roman Bharati

Procter & Gamble Water Purification Technology

Lagos, Nigeria

(Above) Young boy collecting contaminated water from a local source. (Just One Africa, 2020).

As the world continues to develop into a modern society, with increasing significant advances in technological innovation, it must be ensured that the basic necessities of life are met for all people on Earth (​Swaminathan​, 1999). Despite this objective, the world has seen the emergence of developing countries that face significant challenges in providing these vital necessities to their inhabitants. Water is paramount among these challenges, it is the prime source of life, with no exceptions. With 1 in 3 people globally, not having access to clean drinking water, solutions must be developed quickly (​World Health Organization​, 2019). Concentrating on Lagos, Nigeria, the most populated city in Africa, the ongoing water crisis has significantly affected the inhabitants of the area, disease being the primary consequence (​Staff​, 2016). This essay aims to discuss the water crisis (contamination and scarcity), and evaluate the Procter & Gamble Water Purification Technology as a means to realize the goal of providing clean water to the Lagos populace, in an economic and ethical context.

To understand how technological innovation can help to solve the water crisis in Lagos, the issue’s causes and effects must be thoroughly understood. To start, freshwater has always been considered very valuable. After all, roughly 97% of the water on earth is salt water, which signifies that it isn’t consumable by humans (​Williams​, 2014). However, the issue in Nigeria, and more specifically, Lagos, lies in water pollution, and contamination. The sources of this contamination include corruption, policy shifting, outdated infrastructure, low budgetary funding, and low government recognition of the water sector. One of the biggest issues is sewer management, as the sewage is carried away by rainwater into open sewer channels. This water then transfers the pollutants to nearby rivers, which are one of the principal sources of freshwater. The sewage also extends to groundwater sources through poorly manufactured septic tanks and pit latrines. These contaminants can then pollute water in wells and boreholes. There isn’t much of a short-term solution because the water sold by street vendors can also be affected as it is gathered from the same sources (​Internet Geography​, 2020). As a consequence, the region’s daily water needs are twice as large as the output of the municipal utility Lagos Water Corporation, and so the populace must resort to non-treated water (​Oluwafemi​, 2018). The consequences have been serious. Approximations suggest that one in 10 inhabitants are provided access to water allocated by the state utility provider. Nigeria, as a whole, has one of the highest child death rates due to water-borne diseases (​Staff​, 2016).

This is where the Procter & Gamble Water Purification Technology can be integrated into this subject matter. The P&G water purification powder was invented by laundry scientists who were initially attempting to isolate dirt from used laundry water. Inadvertently, they invented an innovative technology that could enable people anywhere in the world to purify contaminated water efficiently. This powder, which comes in tiny packets, has the purification power to clean up to 10 litres of polluted water, rendering it safe to consume for all people, including infants (​Procter & Gamble​, 2020). The method by which it functions uses a fairly simple concept consisting of three stages; Coagulation, Flocculation, and Disinfection (​CDC​, 2014). In essence, contaminated water consists of dirt particles, parasites, and other bacteria. Therefore, after the powder is introduced to the water, the first stage consists of attraction.

Specifically, the attraction between a variety of cationic electrolytes which have a net positive charge (normally Ferric Sulphate) with the dirt particles which have a net negative charge (​McPherson​, 2019). Once attracted, the flocculation begins, which essentially consists of those electrolytes and dirt particles clumping together to form larger precipitates, intercepting the parasites in the process. These precipitates are now denser than the water, which makes them sink to the bottom of the container. From there, the Calcium Hypochlorite (disinfecting agent) is employed, killing roughly 99.999% of the residual bacteria (​CDC​, 2014). The result is clean, purified, and safe drinking water.

Figure 1 (above), demonstrates the simplified diagram of contaminated water. Specifically, the dirt particles, potential parasites, and other forms of bacteria within contaminated water.

Figure 2 (above), demonstrates the simplified process of coagulation right after the powder is introduced to the contaminated water, in which the cationic electrolytes are attracted to the dirt particles, with a net negative charge. This is the first stage of the three in the P&G water purification process.

Figure 3 (above), demonstrates the simplified process of flocculation, in which the clumps of dirt particles, cationic electrolytes, and parasites become denser than the water itself, and thus sink to the bottom of the container. This is the second stage of the three in the P&G water purification process.

Figure 4 (above), demonstrates the simplified process of disinfection, in which the Calcium Hypochlorite (disinfecting agent), kills virtually all of the residual bacteria. This the third and last stage in the P&G water purification process.

Figure 5 (above), demonstrates the result of the powder. Clean drinking water is found at the top, and the floccules are sunken to the bottom of the container. If only the pure water is needed in the container, it would be filtered. All figures included: (Modified from ​Rober​, 2019).

Evaluating the Procter & Gamble Water Purifying Powder from an economic standpoint, there is one key positive and negative outcome from extended usage. Starting with the positive outcome, it renders the society healthier. The most powerful link between health and the economy is supporting a healthier workforce. Healthier workers are significantly more likely to attend work, become more productive when at work, are in a better state physically and mentally, and have a higher chance of bettering themselves through education and/or skill enrichment. Furthermore, a healthy economy entails an improvement in the quality of work and improved benefits such as health insurance and higher pay. Finally, when workers are paid more, they have a higher chance of financing higher education, in turn, improving the worker’s income ​(Blue Cross Blue Shield Association​, 2017). If Nigeria’s economy improves, so will its dependency on other nations. In other words, Nigeria wouldn’t be as dependent as it is now on first-world countries’ aid.

Continuing, the negative outcome, speaking strictly economically, is the loss of revenue for P&G. To be clear, P&G distributes these packets of water purification through a non-profit economic model (​Seagle & Jones​, 2011). Stated alternatively, this innovative product is sold at a loss to other countries around the world (priced at about 3.5 cents (USD)/packet) (​CDC​, 2014). Again, from an economic perspective, this is a substandard approach to economically globalized distribution. Normally, the highest amount of profit is the goal, however, this is a noble approach that provokes an interesting question: Should developed countries employ their powers in helping developing countries provide necessities to their population?​ This introduces a second context - ethics.

Through an ethical lens, there is mainly one positive outcome from usage of the technology - the access to clean drinking water globally. Objectively, this is the correct ethical approach, as access to clean drinking water is a human right, and necessity (Alton, 2017). Therefore, it is ethically incorrect to exploit the necessities of humans, to make a profit.

Ultimately, Lagos, Nigeria faces the imminent threat of water scarcity and contamination, due in part to poor infrastructure, shifting policies, and less attention focused on access to clean and safe water. It has caused disease and has increased death rates throughout the nation. Nevertheless, the Procter & Gamble Water Purification Powder that was unintentionally developed by laundry scientists in 2004, has been employed in a variety of countries with an abundance of success. In Nigeria, over 46,000,000 litres of water have been treated using the powder (​CDC​, 2014). Evaluating the implications of this technology, economically, the workforce would continue to significantly benefit, creating a better economy, and enhancing national independence. However, the powder is sold at a price-deficit, which although economically wrong, is ethically correct. In terms of the next steps for the technology, integration into an even greater global context is crucial. As such, this technology is an excellent short-term solution to the issue of water contamination and scarcity in not just Lagos, Nigeria, but around the world.