Five Poverty-Fighting Clean Water Projects and Designs

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Today is Blog Action Day, and we'll be using our forum as a green blog to talk about this year's theme: poverty. Check the end of the post for links to all our Blog Action Day posts. Photo credit: laszlo-photo

The intersection of green and poverty might be the most dramatic when it comes to water issues; no resource is more precious on this planet, and, yet, no resource is more abused, misallocated, polluted, or otherwise undrinkable; 2.6 billion people in the world lack access to sanitary toilet facilities and 1.1 billion people have no access to safe drinking water. Yet, some solid green projects are underway, bringing design to the forefront of green and poverty, around the globe, helping impoverished folks get their hands on the precious resource.

In honor of Blog Action Day, here are five projects and designs that have the potential to help end poverty and insure everyone has enough clean water to drink.

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Charity:Water is drilling wells in Ethiopia

More than 75% of the people in Ethiopia don't have safe drinking water; to help the impoverished people, Charity:Water is drilling wells to serve 150,000 people with the most basic need, and greatly improve health and quality of life. The organization turns two years old in September, and, to celebrate their birthday, they've asked those individuals who are celebrating their own special days to give up birthday presents and ask their friends and family for donations instead. TreeHugger founder Graham Hill participated this year, and raised nearly $5,000.

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Photo credit: McKay Savage

The Clinton Global Initiative's 'mega-commitment' to clean water

At this year's annual Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) meetings, 15 members pledged nearly $460 million to projects that will improve access to clean water for more than 6 million people around the globe. Included in these are three projects, based in India, Madagascar, and Rwanda that are using a community-based for-profit model to insure that the projects are seen through to fruition; after five years some 40-60% of rural water and sanitation projects fail, according to Global Water Challenge Executive Director Paul Faeth. CGI's commitment represents a huge step forward in cleaner water, and a possible escape from poverty, in the developing world.

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Lifestraw: Drink It Up

Lifestraw, perhaps the most famous poverty-fighting clean-water design, got an update last year to remove the unpleasant iodine taste imparted by the water-cleaning system. Like the original version, the light-weight, 12.2 inch (25cm) device can be carried or worn around the neck and filters a minimum of about 185 gallons of water (700 liters, or a year's worth) and requires no electricity or spare parts for the duration of its life. Whether it's Lifestraw or Lifestraw II, it's a big-time difference maker when it comes to providing clean water for those who really need it.

There's even a family-sized version of Lifestraw, which trades portability for volume, living in the home and filtering water for the whole family, instead of whomever is wearing the straw around their neck. We noted how you could sponsor a Lifestraw Family with Project H Design, a humanitarian non-profit that's done some other pretty neat things.

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Hippo Rollers delivered to Africa, thanks to Project H Design

Project H Design and founder Emily Pilloton have been busily supporting water-related causes for awhile now, arranging for the delivery of the Lifestraw Family systems mentioned above -- so that people around the globe can have access to clean water in their homes -- and delivering Hippo Rollers to South Africa, so residents there can get water to their homes. The rollers make it possible to transport 20 gallons at a time, rather than however much each person could precariously stack and balance on their head.

About the process, Emily says, "In the grand scheme of things, our small quantity of donated rollers probably made only a small mark, but I like to think Project H (and design in general) is all about providing tools to enable lives, and creating an impact beyond the immediate function. I would hope that the rollers aren't just about transporting water, but that they bring some inspiration to do more." Couldn't have said it better myself.

Aquaduct: A bicycle that filters water while you pedal

Like a Hippo Roller with pedals, the winning entry to Specialized and Google's Innovate-or-Die contest -- this bicycle -- uses of materials readily available in developing countries, which is the target market for this design, to provide a family of four with enough clean water to drink, cook with, and keep clean. The 20 gallon tank gets filled when the rider cruises over a water source, and pedal-power takes over from there: "The peristaltic pump draws the water from the storage tank, through a filter to a 2 gallon clean tank. That tank can be removed and taken indoors. When more water is needed, the tank is replaced, the clutch engaged and the person then peddles while remaining stationary."

Other Blog Action Day coverage on TreeHugger
Four Big Thinker's Ideas on Going Green, Ending Poverty
Closing the Digital Divide: 5 Ways to Get Free Internet Access
Four Argentinean Design Projects Helping those in Need
Apple Day at Roots and Shoots
More about poverty on TreeHugger and Planet Green
Protecting the Environment Will Combat Poverty: Wangari Maathai
Biofuels Have Pushed Thirty Million People Into Poverty: Oxfam
How Better Conservation Measures Can Help Reduce Poverty
Project H Delivering Water in Africa with Hippo Rollers
A Bicycle That Creates Clean Air AND Clean Water!
More about water on TreeHugger and Planet Green
How to Go Green: Water
An Explanation of the Water Cycle (with Pictures and Diagrams)
Make a Solar Water Heater for Under $5

Five Poverty-Fighting Clean Water Projects and Designs
The intersection of green and poverty

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