URL: http://www.fastcompany.com/1480445/21-tata-swach-worlds-cheapest-water-purifier

Humanitarian Engineering for Development Workers ERE 496 student Caitlin Klotz discussions solutions to help reach Millennium Development Goals to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; reduce child mortality; combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; and ensure environmental sustainability.


In the news article, “$21 Tata Swach: The World’s Cheapest Water Purifier?” posted to Fast Company, in 20120, the author Ariel Schwartz discusses the initiative taken by India’s Tata Group to develop a way to provide clean drinking water to the millions in India without access. Limited access to clean drinking water is a huge issue. Nearly one third of all deaths of children in India are attributed to unsafe drinking water. Consuming unfiltered, contaminated water can lead to several diseases with the most frequent being diarrhea. According to UNICEF nearly 400 thousand children die in India yearly because of diarrhea caused by drinking dirty water (The Children). However, with the use of a cheap filtration system, these death rates can be reduced. The Tata Swach costs only 21 dollars to serve a family of 5 for 200 days. It requires no labor to maintain, making it easy for people of all ages to use. The swach itself is culturally appropriate to India. In India they produce 20 million tons of paddy husk ash- which is the main component of the filtration system. Along with the paddy husk filter, the system is also comprised of tiny silver particles that are used to kill the bacteria (Tata Swach).


People in India have access to water, but the problem is that the majority of this water is not safe to drink. Along with this, there is no reasonable way to clean the water so people are forced to purify water through boiling or UV sterilization, or drink contaminated water. Children are the main group affected by this. UNICIEF says that in addition to the children dying from diarrhea, “still others fall ill on account of Hepatitis A, enteric fever, intestinal worms and eye and skin infections caused by poor hygiene and unsafe drinking water” (The Children). By making these filters reasonably priced for families to use, the access to clean drinking water for people in all types of living conditions, especially children, can be improved. With a system to clean water at the point of consumption, it will limit the amount of time and effort families have to put on obtaining water from wells- which could still potentially be contaminated. As well as reducing child mortality and the instances of diseases, the Tata Swach is helping to ensure environmental sustainability, by making filters out of a by-product of rice milling.


There are other technologies available to disinfect water and make it safe to drink. One of these technologies is using a water bottle for Solar Disinfection (SODIS). To use this technology the user places water in a water bottle and leaves it in the sun to allow the UV rays to sterilize the bacteria and make the water safe to consume. While the SODIS method is much cheaper than the Tata Swach, only the cost of the bottle and chemical additive; it requires more preparation and is less efficient. The Tata Swach only requires approximately 30 minutes to filter water whereas the SODIS treatment can take up to two days depending on the cloud cover. Neither of the technologies is particular labor or maintenance intensive, but both do require a basic understanding of how each technology works. Both are culturally appropriate, as they both use materials that are found locally. The design of the Tata Swach is more complicated than that of the SODIS method, but is more efficient.

Tata Swach filtration system

Tata Swach filtration system

SODIS water bottles

SODIS water bottles


Schwartz, Ariel. “$21 Tata Swach: The World’s Cheapest Water Purifier?” Fast Company. N.p., 8 Dec. 2009. Web. 28 Apr. 2014. <http://www.fastcompany.com/1480445/21-tata-swach-worlds-cheapest-water-purifier&gt;.

“Solar Water Disinfection.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 15 Apr. 2014. Web. 27 Apr. 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_water_disinfection&gt;.

“Tata Swach Silver Boost.” Comparison. Tata Chemicals Ltd., n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2014. <http://www.tataswach.com/know_tata_swach/tata_swach_silver_boost.html&gt;.

“The Children: Water, Environment and Sanitation.” UNICEF India. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2014. <http://www.unicef.org/india/children_2357.htm&gt;.