I’m always on the lookout for sustainable and appropriate solutions to water quality problems, especially those that would help rural communities. A couple of weeks ago I was meandering through the internet and came upon one such solution; the moringa tree. Depending on where you are in the world you could hear the moringa referred to as “Mother’s best friend” or “never die”. These names are appropriate considering the number of benefits that this beautiful tree can bring, including water purification, medicinal treatment, soil fertilization, as well as combating malnutrition. Today I’ll be focusing on how it is used to purify water; however a quick search on the internet can provide you with information on its other uses.
The moringa tree is native to India and has spread to much of Southeast Asia, Africa, and Latin America over centuries. It can thrive in most semiarid, tropical, and subtropical regions which makes it suitable for many impoverished countries. The moringa is drought resistant, and therefore, it doesn’t take a lot of water to grow which makes it perfect for those who lack abundant water. Moringa also grows very fast, reaching heights of up to thirty-six feet, with every part of the tree being useful in some way.
Although it has many uses I’m most concerned with is its ability to purify water. Millions of people around the world drink dirty water every day leading to sickness and even death. By using the moringa tree as a water treatment 90-99% of harmful bacteria can be removed, and it’s really easy. The moringa grows long pods that contain seeds, and the seeds are what you need to purify water. Here are the steps to take to purify your water:
- Use a stone or some other hard object to crush the dried seeds into a powder.
- Add a small amount of water to turn the powder into a paste. You can have a dosage of anywhere from 0.5 to 5 g/l.
- Mix this paste with 1 cup of water (250ml) and shake for a minute.
- Use a cloth to strain this mixture and remove any solids. This will leave you with a milky white liquid.
- Add this liquid to the water you wish to purify.
- Stir this mixture quickly for 30 seconds.
- After 30 seconds start stirring the mixture slowly, but regularly, for five minutes.
- Now cover the water and let it sit for one to two hours. Make sure not to move or shake the container during this time or you’ll have to let it sit for longer. After you let it sit your water will be safe to drink!
- If you would like you can now filter your water again to remove the solids, or just scoop it out from the top of your container.
This process works because the moringa seed powder absorbs and clings to solids and bacteria in the water and then sinks to the bottom. I should note that the moringa will not remove chemical pollutants from the water and should not be used to treat water which has been polluted by chemicals. Here’s a more thorough explanation of why the moringa seed works to purify water from miracletrees.org:
Moringa oleifera seeds treat water on two levels, acting both as a coagulant and an antimicrobial agent. It is generally accepted that Moringa works as a coagulant due to positively charged, water-soluble proteins, which bind with negatively charged particles (silt, clay, bacteria, toxins, etc) allowing the resulting “flocs” to settle to the bottom or be removed by filtration. The antimicrobial aspects of Moringa continue to be researched. Findings support recombinant proteins both removing microorganisms by coagulation as well as acting directly as growth inhibitors of the microorganisms. While there is ongoing research being conducted on the nature and characteristics of these components, it is accepted that treatments with Moringa solutions will remove 90-99.9% of the impurities in water.
And there you have it; a quick and effective way to clean up your water. And depending on where you live there may be some moringa trees nearby waiting to be utilized. Below you will find a link to a study on the use of moringa as a water treatment that could be beneficial as well as a video from the Discovery Channel titled “Moringa – The Miracle Tree”. As always, thanks for reading, and I hope you will find this to be a useful tool in combating disease and death from dirty water.
National Geographic, Mighty Moringa, November 2012