04 Jun 2018
Marrakech, Morocco
Sustainable Food and Agriculture

Access to clean water is a huge problem in much of the developing world. According to the World Health Organization, at least 2 billion people use a drinking water source contaminated with feces, which can transmit diseases such as diarrhea, cholera, and dysentery. Research also shows that more than 800 children die every day due to poor water sanitation. One Moroccan entrepreneur is trying to change that by turning wastewater into irrigation water. It is a solution that could impact the lives of millions.

Dr. Lahbib Latrach was pursuing his Ph.D. in environment and water treatment technologies at Cadi Ayyad University in Morocco and Shimane University in Matsue, Japan when he first developed a technology called a “multi-soil layering system”, which is meant to remove pollutants and toxins from wastewater. Much of the wastewater in developing countries is not treated; and is sent straight back into the environment where it is likely to cause illnesses.

“I’ve been in many countries where I’ve seen wastewater released into the environment and the results are catastrophic,” says Latrach. “Wastewater contains many toxins such as chemicals and bacteria, [even] salmonella. It has high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous that pollutes the groundwater. Mosquitos breed in puddles of wastewater, and the mosquitoes transmit diseases to humans.”

His goal was to find a solution to treat this water that was not too costly and could be easily implemented in rural villages using local materials. From there, Latrach founded a company called Green WATECH with the purpose of eradicating water-related illnesses around the world.

How Green WATECH’s technology works:

Many villages across Morocco don’t have access to wastewater treatment facilities, so Latrach first decided to test his new technology on a community called Talat Merghen, outside of Marrakech housing 600 inhabitants.

“What we do is collect wastewater from households, treat it, then we irrigate plants like olives and alfalfa,” he says.

The multi-soil layering system works by filtering water through a combination of low-cost materials such as gravel, sawdust, sand, and charcoal. The resulting filtered water is clear; a big step from the dirty, brown-tinged wastewater normally seen in the village.

“The typical wastewater treatment system is very expensive and can cost millions of dollars,” says Latrach. “When you compare our solution, the cost is very low, it’s simple to operate by the rural population and is very efficient. It takes out 90% of the pollutants and pathogens and requires no energy for operation. The lifespan of our filtration system is 20 years.”

Now, the technology is active at two villages in Morocco.

Scientists around the world have acknowledged the fact that water pollution is a huge issue.

Gabriel Filippelli of the Center for Urban Health at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis told the National Science Foundation: “Pollution is linked to a startling 16% of all premature deaths worldwide, a statistic that highlights our failure to address the causes of disease [sic]. Instead, we tend to focus on the symptoms. Compounding the situation is the fact that 92 percent of these pollution-related deaths are in low-income and middle-income countries.”

Green WATECH’s hope for the future:

Green WATECH has a three-pronged approach to helping small villages succeed. There is the social aspect, which is to improve the quality of life and employ people in rural villages. Next is the environmental aspect; through reducing waterborne diseases. Plus, the economic aspect of cutting back on the amount of freshwater used for irrigation, and increasing food security.

So far, Green WATECH has raised $23,000 in funding from Réseau Maroc d’Essaimage des Entreprises and from the Incubator of Marrakech – Cadi Ayyad University. The company needs an additional $60,000 in financial support to expand their market and cover prototyping, marketing, salaries, and training costs.

Latrach, who was raised in Marrakech, believes every human being has a right to sanitation services.

“Our vision is to expand our market in other Middle Eastern and African countries where more than 1 billion people don’t have access to safe and adequate sanitation service,” he says. “Africa is especially impacted. We are also looking for foreign business partners and distributors to help us expand.”



Photos: Courtesy of Green WATECH.

Kristin Hanes is a journalist who has a passion for the environment, sustainability, and science. She loves telling stories about people who are making a real difference in the world.Kristin Hanes
This multi-soil layer system treats water to be used for irrigation purposes | The Switchers
Green WATECH Resource Efficiency & Sustainable Waste Management