'From poop to potable:' Bill Gates backs revolutionary water machine developed in Washington

"I watched the piles of feces go up the conveyer belt and drop into a large bin. They made their way through the machine, getting boiled and treated. A few minutes later I took a long taste of the end result: a glass of delicious drinking water."

SEDRO-WOOLLEY, Wash. -- Bill Gates recently toured a new facility in the Sedro-Woolley area that burns human waste and produces potable water and electricity.

The machine that produced that water is called the Janicki Omniprocessor.

The Gates Foundation is backing the project as part of its effort to improve sanitation in poor countries.

"Why would anyone want to turn waste into drinking water and electricity?

Because a shocking number of people, at least 2 billion, use latrines that aren’t properly drained. Others simply defecate out in the open. The waste contaminates drinking water for millions of people, with horrific consequences: Diseases caused by poor sanitation kill some 700,000 children every year, and they prevent many more from fully developing mentally and physically.

If we can develop safe, affordable ways to get rid of human waste, we can prevent many of those deaths and help more children grow up healthy."

Gates says modern sewage plants do not incinerate waste, but rather turn the waste into solids that are stored in the desert. Other burn the waste using diesel or other fuels which is not practical for use in most poor countries.

"The Omniprocessor solves that problem. Through the ingenious use of a steam engine, it produces more than enough energy to burn the next batch of waste. In other words, it powers itself, with electricity to spare. The next-generation processor, more advanced than the one I saw, will handle waste from 100,000 people, producing up to 86,000 liters of potable water a day and a net 250 kw of electricity."