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Gates Foundation awards grants for high-tech toilets

An exhibitor demonstrates the use of a toilet tap where water is recycled and reused, during the Reinvent The Toilet Fair in New Delhi on March  21, 2014.
Tsering Topgyal | AP
An exhibitor demonstrates the use of a toilet tap where water is recycled and reused, during the Reinvent The Toilet Fair in New Delhi on March 21, 2014.

The Gates Foundation has awarded $2 million in grants to several Indian organizations to build a high-tech toilet, as part of its effort to curb the disease and death caused by poor sanitation in the developing world.

In partnership with several Indian government agencies, the Gates Foundation examined more than a hundred proposed designs for a "next generation" toilet that provides sanitation to another slice of the 2.5 billion people who lack it.

The unit should be able to clean waste and mine it for usable energy, water and nutrients, work "off the grid," and cost less than 5 cents per user per day. It also has to be something people will want to use.

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Building a device is no mean feat, but is absolutely necessary when more than half of India's over 1 billion people lack access to basic sanitation.

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"Effective and comprehensive sanitation seems an impossible dream for India," said professor K. Vijay Raghavan, a biotechnologist who works for the Indian government and announced the grants. "Yet today we see a congruence of new and applicable science and technology, its affordability and sustainable implementation."

At any given moment, half of the people in the world's developing countries may be sick from diseases resulting from dirty water, according to the World Health Organization, and Unicef estimates 2,000 children die every day from diseases related to poor sanitation.

(Read more: Don't laugh: Lack of toilets signals deadly crisis)

The project first officially laid down roots in India in October 2013, and also operates in China.

—By CNBC.com Staff.

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