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Solar water disinfection

Solar water disinfection, also known as solar water pasteurisation or SODIS, is a method of disinfecting water using only sunlight and plastic PET bottles.



By filling a polyethylene bottle with contaminated water and leaving it in bright sunlight, it is treated through three synergistic radiation mechanisms.

  • UV-A (wavelength 320-400nm) which react with oxygen dissolved in the water produces highly reactive forms of oxygen (oxygen free radicals and hydrogen peroxides) in the water. These reactive forms of oxygen kill the microorganisms.
  • UV-A also interferes with the reproduction cycle of bacteria by damaging their DNA
  • Infrared heating the water. If the water temperatures raises above 50°C, the disinfection process is three times faster.

The combined effect of all three mechanisms is greater than the sum of the individual components.


SODIS efficiency depends on the physical condition of the plastic bottles, with scratches and other signs of wear reducing the efficiency of SODIS. Heavily scratched or old, blind bottles should be replaced. If the sunlight is less strong, due to overcast weather or a less sunny climate, a longer time in the sun is necessary. SODIS: Water Project Was lead By Dr Kevin McGuigan of The Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin

Suggested Treatment Schedule

Weather Conditions Minimum Treatment Duration
sunny 6 hours
50% cloudy 6 hours
100% cloudy 2 days
continuous rainfall unsatisfactory performance, use rainwater harvesting


If the water bottles are not left in the sun for the proper length of time, the water may not be safe to drink and could cause illness.

There is concern over whether plastic drinking containers can leach chemicals or toxic components into water, a process possibly accelerated by heat. The Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research have examined the diffusion of adipates and phthalates (DEHA and DEHP) from new and reused PET-bottles in the water during solar exposure. The levels of concentrations found in the water after a solar exposure of 17 hours in 60°C water were far below WHO guidelines for drinking water and in the same magnitude as the concentrations of phthalate and adipate generally found in high quality tap water.

Concerns about the general use of PET-bottles were also expressed after a report published by researchers from the University of Heidelberg on antimony being released from PET-bottles for soft drinks and mineral water stored over several months in supermarkets. The antimony concentrations found in the bottles however are orders of magnitude below WHO [1] and national guidelines for antimony concentrations in drinking water.[2][3][4]


SODIS is valuable for boiling water, where fuel or cookers are unavailable or prohibitively expensive. Even where fuel is available, however, SODIS is a more economical and environmentally friendly option.

In theory, the process could be used in disaster relief or refugee camps. However, supplying bottles may be more difficult than providing equivalent disinfecting tablets containing chlorine, bromine, or iodine. Additionally, in some circumstances, it may be difficult to guarantee that the water will be left in the sun for the necessary time.

SODIS has been applied in several communities in Brazil, one of them being Prainha do Canto Verde north of Fortaleza. There, the villagers have been purifying their water with the SODIS method. It is quite successful, especially since the temperature during the day can go beyond the 40ºC (100ºF) and there is a limited amount of shade.

See also


  • Plastic versus glass bottles
  • covers the concept briefly
  • Drinking Water For All by Anumakonda Jagadeesh. Test results in Tamil Nadu, India.
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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Solar_water_disinfection". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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