Clean water innovation creates stir

by Ana Ceballos

MCT Campus

A new generation of water filters has allowed more than 884 million people access to clean drinking water in developing countries. LifeStraw, produced by the Swiss company, Vestergaard Frandsen, can filter approximately 1,000 liters, which is enough to keep a single person hydrated for an entire year.

According to a study conducted by UNICEF, it has been estimated one in six people do not have access to clean drinking water and as a result, nearly two million deaths from diarrhea occur each year.

Resembling a flute, LifeStraw works through a hollow fiber technology designed to filter out bacterial contaminations, which are often found in the developing world, killing more than 99.99 percent of bacteria from any water source. The miniscule filters filer down to 0.2 microns, which resemble the width of a white blood cell.

LifeStraw is available in the personal version, which is enough to filter about 1,000 liters of water-borne bacteria, and a family version, which can cleanse approximately 18,000 liters, and can provide enough water for an entire family for approximately three years.

The popular procedure to access drinking water has been through boiling water by burning wood and charcoal, generating greenhouse gases as a result. Burning wood to boil water indoors is also a leading cause of respiratory disease.

One of the company’s main goals is to reduce the production of carbon emissions by more than two million tons every year.

Another goal of the Swiss company is to reduce the emission of more than two million tons of carbon every year by replacing the purification method to one that requires no boiling. They created a program called Carbon For Water in order to reduce carbon emissions; its performance and its accumulation of carbon credits pay the company. They are audited by a third party before receiving the credits and then are sold to a voluntary carbon market. The generated revenue will mainly be re-invested into the program to make the product a sustainable business, which comes at no cost to users.

The carbon credits system is incentive for Vestergaard Frandsen to have an effective product and to maximize the number of families using the purifiers.

The program has distributed nearly 900,000 LifeStraw Family water filters to approximately 90 percent of households in the Western Province of Kenya, giving purified water to more than four million residents. One of the ongoing problems with access to clean drinkable water is the distance people need to walk to reach a water source. While walking sometimes more than 12 miles to reach a water source, many people also carry heavy cargo back and forth.

The simplicity of LifeStraw makes a long journey easier by replacing heavy buckets and bottles with a small plastic straw.

LifeStraw can be purchased for $20 in North America because of popular demand. Then a portion of the proceeds go back to continue funding LifeStraw, which supply large quantities of LifeStraw products to developing countries at no cost. The company usually sells the product to non-profit organizations and then they supply them to people in need for free.

“I think inventions such as LifeStraw are important for helping those less fortunate and to avoid potentially fatal bacteria and pollutants,” San Diego State environmental studies senior Amanda Cross said.

-This story was corrected 10.2.2012