water by design


water glass

Here in California we know all about water shortages. We are in the midst of the worst drought so far in my lifetime and while some of us have let our lawns go brown, others are still washing their cars at the curb and letting all of that precious liquid wash down the sewers. Water companies are begging us to cut usage by 20% under threat of raised rates. Even still, every time I turn on a tap the water flows, and we have two working toilets in my house. Not so for millions of people around the world who lack access to clean water. And according to water.org, more people in the world own a cell phone than a toilet. Women worldwide spend more than 200 million hours per day collecting water. Organizations like water.org are helping communities to build wells and sanitation facilities. UTEC in Peru created a billboard that pulls water from the atmosphere for consumption by the local community.

There are also designers working at a more human scale to solve some of the world’s daily water issues with lower tech solutions. Architects Arturo Vittori and Andreas Vogler of the Italian firm Architecture and Vision developed “warkawater 2′, a water tower for use in Ethiopia where water resources are often hours from home and frequently contaminated. The 30′ tower made of bamboo and netted fabric harvests water droplets from the air, collecting daily more than 25 gallons of potable water in the basin at the base. The structure can be built using mostly local materials and local labor in a matter of about a week and requires no complicated engineering to build or maintain. Images courtesy architectureandvision.com

Vestergaard, a ‘humanitarian entrepreneurship business’ that makes money while doing good developed LifeStraw, a straw that purifies water as it is drawn. These straws purify a minimum of 1000 litres of water removing bacteria and micro-organisms that result from dirt, animal feces and poor sanitation. The devices are useful when water is available but unclean. At Water is Life, a non-profit that survives on donations, they developed a straw that functions differently but with the same results. It is worn around the neck and purifies about 800 litres of water after which it clogs and ceases to function.

Newer than the straw solutions, Water is Life teamed with Carnegie Mellon and the University of Virginia to produce a book that not only teaches users about water hygiene and safety, its pages also work as filters to provide clean water for up to 4 years. And the book costs only pennies to produce.

So as we in drought prone areas of the developed world work to minimize the vast water resources we consume, there are those who could use some of that water you let wash down the drain while you are brushing your teeth. Fortunately there are some brilliant design minds working on these problems. Bravo!

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