GLENDALE, Arizona — In many low-income countries, the most significant struggle small communities face is a lack of accessible clean drinking water. Waterborne illness-causing bacteria may contaminate unsafe water sources, which creates health issues and exacerbates poverty. As of today, countries such as Uganda and Papua New Guinea struggle to provide their citizens to clean water services. Wars and conflict, lack of infrastructure and sanitation and natural disasters impact clean water access. According to Water.org, globally, 771 million people (one in every 10 individuals) do not have access to potable and safe water. As this statistic grows, the LifeStraw water purifier stands as a solution to enable access to clean water for communities across the globe.
History of LifeStraw
With more than 15 years in service, the company LifeStraw has made strides to provide communities big and small with a solution to address clean water inaccessibility. LifeStraw aims to provide these communities with the human right to potable and clean water sources for those who no longer have a safe source of water. As “a personal and mobile water purification tool,” LifeStraw can “turn most surface water into safe drinking water, offering relief from waterborne diseases of major public concern such as typhoid, cholera, dysentery, and diarrhea.”
How it Works
The LifeStraw water purifier consists of a plastic tube with a series of hollow fibers that form a microfilter to separate dirt, bacteria, parasites and anything else that may be present in a contaminated water source. LifeStraw’s initial way to kill bacteria was to have iodine inside the straw itself to kill bacteria, however, LifeStraw moved past the use of chemicals in 2012.
When someone is drinking through the straw, the filter will trap the contaminants and purified water comes out the receiving end of the tube. Vestergaard Frandsen, the inventor of LifeStraw, stated that a personal LifeStraw unit can purify about 264 gallons of water before it requires replacement. This equates to about a year of use.
Along with a smaller, personal LifeStraw unit, LifeStraw has also released a larger product called LifeStraw Family. LifeStraw Family is able to filter more than 4,700 gallons of water and can sustain a household of five people for about three years. The family unit “consists of a blue bucket with a prefilter insert, a long plastic tube and a filter cartridge with a tap attached to draw out the water.” As an ultrafiltration device, LifeStraw Family can filter viruses, unlike the personal LifeStraw water purifier, and does not require any electricity or batteries to power.
In an interview with The Borgen Project, Dr. Beth Polidoro, an associate professor at Arizona State University researching and teaching Environmental Chemistry and Aquatic Conservation, said that LifeStraw presents an interesting solution to a really big problem. Dr. Polidoro explained further that these units can be vital for both individuals and communities who do not have access to a clean water source. Contaminated water is a large issue for many underdeveloped countries, with the various versions of the water purifiers being able to accommodate different numbers of people.
LifeStraw’s Give Back Program
LifeStraw’s products range from small plastic straw filters for survivalists and hikers to larger jugs of water for households and villages. Anyone can buy them on LifeStraw’s website, but the profits and donations LifeStraw receives go to those in need with LifeStraw’s Give Back Program. For every 500 LifeStraw products sold, LifeStraw will donate a LifeStraw Community purifier to a school, which has the capability to supply 100 students with access to clean drinking water for about five years. To put it simply, for every purchase, one child receives access to safe water for a year.
Along with the Give Back Program, LifeStraw is a staple sales product for Amazon Prime Day, where many retailers online offer LifeStraw products for a reduced price on Amazon. LifeStraw’s ultralight and portable straw water filter is a hot selling item for the company and Amazon Prime Day in 2020 saw a significant surge in purchases. LifeStraw’s personal water filter straw sold out on just the first day, equating to about 200,000 purchases. This means about 200,000 children in need of access to clean water around the globe will gain access through the Give Back Program.
The Russian-Ukranian war has led to the displacement of many Ukrainian citizens. With more than 4 million Ukrainian citizens fleeing their hometowns and the destruction of water infrastructure in Ukraine, LifeStraw stepped in to assist with access to clean water amid the crisis. LifeStraw set up a GoFundMe donation page where each donation goes to the manufacture and distribution of water purifiers and filters to Ukrainian refugees in need.
According to LifeStraw’s blog, by March 7, 2022, LifeStraw had shipped more than 16,000 water filtration devices to reach more than 22,000 people in need amid the Russian-Ukrainian war.
The Importance of Clean Water
With more than 2 billion people residing in water-stressed nations, the risks of illnesses that spread from both standing water and wastewater can have serious impacts on those in impoverished countries. Waterborne illnesses such as cholera, typhoid and dysentery can have lethal consequences and harsh economic impacts.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), clean water access is essential to public health and can increase a nation’s economic growth while reducing poverty. With access to clean drinking water, there is “less expenditure on health, as people are less likely to fall ill and incur medical costs and are better able to remain economically productive.” Improved health also means improved school attendance, which brings poverty reduction benefits through education.
Dr. Polidoro told The Borgen Project, “the basic premise is that everyone has a right to clean water in their lives.” She said further, “I don’t think it matters the size of your community, whether you’re a thousand people or 2 million people, you still deserve access to clean water.” In line with this basic human right, the LifeStraw water purifier ensures access to clean water for all.
– Kyle Swingle