A TEAM of UK-based engineers has developed new technology that promises to revolutionise access to safe, clean drinking water for millions of people worldwide – and it is starting its work in Scotland.

Despite advances in modern infrastructure, many homes, businesses and tourism hotspots still rely on bottled water or costly and hard-to-maintain private water supplies, especially in rural areas. In Scotland alone, about 24,000 properties are dependent on these solutions.

With many properties failing annual water quality tests, occupants and visitors have relied on bottled water for years which contributes significantly to transport miles and the growing challenge of plastic waste.

It is a problem seen globally. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) predicts that, without urgent action, global plastic waste will nearly triple by 2060. Of the 1.3 billion plastic bottles bought daily around the world, nearly 45% end up in the ocean after a single use, eventually breaking down into microplastics which enter household water supplies.

Traditional water purifiers are often clogged by contaminants, deteriorating quickly and typically end up in landfill. Made with polymers, filters disposed of today will still be decomposing multiple generations into the future. But the innovation created by tech company IF uses a miniature vapour compression distillation system that operates without consumable parts or added chemicals.

The environmentally friendly, low-cost approach can be operational in just 45 minutes, purifying water from previously untreatable sources from anywhere in the world.

Duncan Peters, founder and CEO of IF, said: “Access to safe drinking water is a global problem that is only getting harder as global warming, ageing infrastructure, industrial waste and modern contaminants gathers pace. This is why accelerating the path to clean, reliable water is so incredibly important in our lifetime.

“Water is also becoming harder to purify. It’s estimated that 93% of the world’s piped water now contains some form of microplastics, hormones, pesticides or other heavy metals. Traditional purifiers are just not designed to solve these problems, and as a result we’re turning more and more to environmentally damaging plastic bottles.

“Globally, we’re using one million bottles of water every minute. About 80% of single-use plastic ends up in landfill, or eventually the ocean, poisoning the earth and making the problem worse for the next generation.

“At IF, we want to see a future where you can turn on a tap anywhere in the world and know that you have crystal-clear water that is free from pollutants, 365 days a year.

“We’re starting that mission in Scotland where around 3.5% of the population currently rely on off-grid water sources every day. We are confident that we can make a significant and immediate impact on access to safe and reliable water supplies globally.”

One of the first businesses to benefit from the new technology is the Portsonachan Hotel & Lodges on Loch Awe. Due to its heavily peated water supply, the hotel buys more than 90,000 litres of bottled water each year, adding £13,000 to its operating costs.

Struggling with its unsightly “brown water”, its owners have tried multiple purification methods, none of which have delivered consistent results. Traditional methods use filters, reverse osmosis or ultraviolet light techniques which eventually deteriorate with use or can release unknown contaminants over time.

Owner David Parker said: “Our water is currently a peaty brown colour which is met with various reactions from guests, ranging from amusement to horror. They expect clean, pure water during their holiday.

“We’ve tried several different and more traditional purification methods over the years, including a £30,000 centralised system that has never worked. Unfortunately even if it did work, we have 20 years of peat that has built up in our pipes. Relying on bottled water has been our only solution up until now.

“Sustainability is core to our values but we also need reliable, crystal clear water. We need a solution that is low maintenance, reliable and easy to install. We’re proud to be the first hospitality business in Scotland to be introducing IF’s technology so that we can stop purchasing thousands of litres of bottled water each year and give our visitors access to high quality water.”

IF has so far received funding from organisations including Scottish Enterprise, Zero Waste Scotland, Edinburgh Climate Change Institute and Scottish EDGE, The company was a winner at the Scottish Edge Awards in 2021.