Clean water is taken for granted in many parts of the world. For one-sixth of the world’s population though, obtaining clean water is a daily struggle. The 2006 United Nations Human Development report estimates that over a billion people don’t have immediate access to drinkable water. This means that diseases such as cholera, enteric fever, and typhoid continue to be widespread simply because people drink contaminated water.
Likewise, contaminated water is the cause of 4 billion cases of diarrhea each year. An estimated 1.8 million will eventually die from easily-preventable illnesses that can be life-threatening with complications from diarrhea. HIV-positive individuals who get diarrhea are particularly vulnerable because of their weakened immune system. In fact, it is estimated that 6,000 people die each day from drinking contaminated water and its related illnesses.
These concerns make access to clean drinking water a top priority among social welfare organizations and international development agencies. While significant development and aid resources have been allocated towards water infrastructure in developing countries, solving universal access to clean drinking water at a systemic level is complex and expensive. The invention of LifeStraw, an inexpensive, portable water purifier, can now fulfill the need for clean drinking water in areas where infrastructure is lacking.
Where the work of government and international aid agencies ends, innovative social enterprises can step in. Vestergaard Frandsen, a Swiss company, developed LifeStraw in 2005 with the intent to make dirty water drinkable, anywhere. Forbes Magazine listed LifeStraw as one of the 10 things that will change the way we live.
The design is relatively simple and the device is easily portable. The outer layer of LifeStraw is made of durable plastic. The tube is approximately 10 inches long and one inch wide, with a string attached on one end that enable users to wear it on their neck. A person simply needs to place LifeStraw directly into the contaminated water and drink from the tube. After usage, one can blow air through the device in order to clean it. It takes eight minutes to completely filter a quart of water through LifeStraw.
LifeStraw’s Filtration Process
LifeStraw’s water filtration process is as follows:
- Contaminated water goes through a mesh filter that is 100 microns in diameter
- A polyester filter that is around 15 microns catches bacteria and other remaining impurities
- Then, the water passes through iodine-coated beads. Any remaining bacteria, parasite, and virus will be killed during this phase.
- Finally, the water is sent into an empty chamber and then it will be pulled through a carbon filter to eliminate the remaining taste leftover from the iodine.
The LifeStraw technology is also available in another version. The LifeStraw Family unit is a larger version of the LifeStraw Personal. It is designed to clean contaminated water for several people at once, and is a great solution for families.