Natural disasters often knock out access to clean water, which can make thirst and disease bigger causes of death than the catastrophe itself. When a massive storm like Typhoon Haiyan strikes a large, densely populated landmass like the Philippines, the risk to health is widespread, ongoing and a huge challenge to large aid organizations.
Shipments of bottled water help, but they’re expensive to execute, they may not reach everyone, and they cause waste. That’s why WaterStep and its small water purifiers make for such a compelling story, as reported by Takepart.com and Fast Company. The Louisville, Kentucky-based nonprofit group sent 60 of its M-100 Chlorinators over to the stricken nation, piggybacked on a flight of volunteer college kids who would act as couriers. The devices would be distributed in remote areas by newly trained nonprofit workers from the Philippines’ second-largest population center, Cebu City, which was spared by Haiyan and has been a staging area for relief operations.
Each device, about the size of a 2-liter soda bottle, with tubes sticking out, can chlorinate about 1,000 gallons (3,785 liters) of water per hour, or 10,000 gallons (38,000 liters) per day, using some table salt and a basic power source, such as a car battery or a solar panel. The byproducts, chlorine and sodium hydroxide, can be mixed to make a saline solution or used separately as disinfectants.
Another technology created for WaterStep bears mentioning, though not necessarily in the context of disaster relief. The group distributes the Water Ball, a durable sphere with handles that can be filled with water and rolled. In many parts of the world with limited access to clean water, women and children are burdened with the task of carrying water great distances daily; the Water Ball is meant to make it easier to carry more water more quickly.