Nova Scotia

Rachel Brouwer's water-cleaning system to be tested in Africa

Rachel Brouwer isn't your typical 13-year-old student. Unless, of course, your typical young girl devises ways to make drinking water safer worldwide.

Rachel Brouwer is 13 years old. Her water pasteurization system will soon be tested in Kenya and Uganda

13-year-old Rachel Brouwer has invented a solar water pasteurization system using mostly common, everyday materials. (Canada-Wide Science Fair)

Rachel Brouwer isn't your typical 13-year-old student. Unless, of course, your typical 13 year old devises ways to make drinking water safer worldwide.

Brouwer is about to graduate from Grade 8 at Bedford Academy. Like other kids her age she enjoys many hobbies and activities, such as basketball, soccer, and school band. 

Then again, she also spends her time coming up with ways to improve the quality of water in developing countries. 


Brouwer was on a hike when she had the first inkling of a solar water pasteurization system.

She was 11 at the time. 

"My brother and I were hiking in New Hampshire, and we saw the lakes and the rivers, and then we saw the 'Contaminated: Do Not Drink' signs," Brouwer recalls. "And, at the same time I was reading the I am Malala book and in that book many women and children were dying from the cholera outbreak. So, I kind of put the two ideas together and I wanted to help people in need."

Brouwer proceeded to research ideas, and came up with her own design for a solar water pasteurization system.

Using everyday materials

"My project started out with just a filter, removing the impurities from water," Brouwer told CBC's Mainstreet. "But, then I learned that that didn't kill the bacteria, so I had to do more research to learn what methods did kill bacteria."

She learned about solar pasteurization and designed a tubing system that would use the sun to heat water to a certain temperature to kill bacteria.

Then, a roadblock. Brouwer said she learned in certain countries, solar pasteurization can't be used because the sun can't heat the water to 60 C.

Her solution: UV radiation. She learned it can be used to inactivate bacteria in water. She then built a water decontamination system with two litre bottles found commonly in developing countries.

She also designed an indicator using soy bean wax. The changing colours indicate when the water is heating up, and when it's safe to drink. 

She tested her system using E.coli, and found she was able to eliminate 100 per cent of the E.coli from the contaminated water samples. 

In May, Brouwer's invention won a Gold Medal at this year's Canada-Wide Science Fair. She also won for Best Junior Environmental Project Challenge.

Her system will likely be tested soon in two African countries, Kenya and Uganda. 

"It's really exciting to know the system is actually making a difference," she said. "It's really, like, a dream come true."