Solutions Archives - WaterStep

Breaking the Cycle of Unsafe Water


“We must step up and do something right to break the cycle of enslavement, and access to safe water is the best way to empower and transform communities.”

Raphael Wanjala is from Nairobi, Kenya. He has initiated a long term partnership with WaterStep to transform his community through safe water. Now, Raphael is here exploring the next phases of transforming and empowering his community through sanitation. “Right now we are already doing water purification, and we are doing health education. If we can incorporate sanitation, we are going to save more lives.” With WaterStep, Raphael recognizes that in order for third world communities to thrive, the three components of water purification, health education, and sanitation, must be in place, and he is committed to helping his community solve the problem.

“Water is the core of your life, and the need is great,” Raphael says. If you would like to give to break the cycle of unsafe water for others like Raphael, please donate now.

Watch today’s WHAS11 segment on Raphael, and the power of working together:  Local Agencies Educate on Healthy Water


By: Kelsey Roberts

Once known as the “Graveyard of the West,” Louisville has redeemed its 19th century reputation for waterborne illness to become a breeding ground for safe water technology and innovation.



On November 8, 2014, WaterStep held Hack20 Water Hackathon, a new event that convened Louisville’s bright minds and willing hands to prototype solutions for a global water problem. By midmorning, students, engineers, humanitarians and idealists had formed teams that would devise solutions to improve drinking water in developing countries.

Steve Keiber joined the approximately 40 individuals who contributed to Hack20 Water Hackathon. Keiber said, “Something might help somebody out there somewhere, make life a little easier for someone.”

Andrew Cozzens, a participant and employee at FirstBuild which hosted the event, agreed with his teammate. This optimism led both Keiber and Cozzens to devote a Saturday constructing a brake for the WaterBall, which helps women and children transport water in a more efficient way.

Other projects included a titanium dioxide/solar energy filtration unit, a method to remove arsenic from Costa Rica’s drinking water, an alternative transport for WaterStep’s M-100 chlorine generator, a portable laboratory to manufacture disinfecting sodium hypochlorite (bleach) and a wireless device that alerts when water hand pumps malfunction.

James Armstrong, a design engineer at GE Appliances, worked on the alert system for malfunctioning hand pumps. In addition to being a professional tinker, Armstrong has installed a few M-100 chlorine generators in Ethiopian schools and orphanages. He is unlikely to forget why potable water technology is imperative. Armstrong and his wife adopted a son from Ethiopia who suffered from water dwelling giardia parasites that cause diarrhea, abdominal cramps, bloating and weight loss.

Also unlikely to forget the importance of investing in safe water technology is Sam DuPlessis Jr. DuPlessis, also working on the hand pump alert system, chose to spend his 18th birthday at Hack20 Water Hackathon with his father and 11-year-old brother. The DuPlessis family knows that unsafe water and poor sanitation are serious issues for the developing world. Equally as important, the DuPlessis family understands new technology can be a key part of the solution.

“It’s about people helping other people around the world,” said DuPlessis, who gladly supported WaterStep and its beneficiaries on a day he could celebrate with friends.

Meanwhile, Juan He, Ph.D., a post-doctoral associate at the University of Louisville Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research, contributed her professional knowledge to the titanium dioxide/solar energy filtration project. Like others in her group, He wanted to know if water purification was possible without using WaterStep’s traditional chlorine generator. She hoped scientific observation and mathematical equations could result in a cost effective tool for the developing world. He’s decision to address WaterStep beneficiaries as “developing” countries instead of “undeveloped” countries shows she  believes progress for third world nations is possible. Just like WaterStep and those who support its mission, He believes global access to safe water could be one step closer thanks to a room full of students, engineers, humanitarians and idealists.

Hack2O was not simply a one-day event. The effects of the ideas and innovation from the day will stretch for years to come. A few key results from the event include:

  • WaterStep can fast track adding a brake to the WaterBall for safety.
  • The possibility of using less energy to purify water with WaterStep’s M-100 chlorine generator.
  • Ideas for using common materials in the developing world to transport water more easily.
  • Defining possibilities for people in an area of Costa Rica to take arsenic out of their water.


Special Thanks to:

The FirstBuild Team
Mary Beckman, Taylor Dawson and Randy Reeves
Dr. Thad Druffel, University of Louisville, Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research.
Juan Emmanuel Afable, MSD
Elliot Bauer, LG&E

Kevin Nolan, GE
Ted Smith, Metro Louisville
Dr. Mickey Wilhelm, J.B. Speed School

Sunergos Coffee
Phil Back for graphic design
WaterStep Prep Team Kurtis Daniels and Joe Jacobi



From Costa Rica: Germs that sparkle


How do you explain germs to a little girl?  Pam Pusty, WaterStep’s Director of Education, was in a community in Cartago, Costa Rica, teaching health education and hit on the perfect way to explain germs to a little girl — she sprinkled bright, colorful glitter over the little girl’s hands to show her how germs can stick to our fingers and make us sick.

Next, how do you explain to a little boy that flies transmit disease? Pam and her coworkers performed a skit about how pesky flies land on all sorts of things: “Poop! Garbage!” Pam announced, and the little boys laughed with mischievous glee. Pam continued: “Then they land on us again, and because they carry disease, they can make us sick.”

Though the kids were receptive, Pam says her information made the biggest impression on the mothers sitting quietly in the back of the room. “There were three Moms sitting there, and their heads went up immediately. They looked at us, and you could tell they were having this moment of ‘Really? Wow.’”

Pam says, “They told me later that they didn’t know that disease was transmitted by flies.”

When Pam finished her health training, she turned to thank the woman who had opened her home for the presentation. Pam says: “I was shocked to see she had a tear going down her face. She said, ‘You have brought us so much. I want to learn more. If I get more mothers, will you teach more?’”

It can be a life or death question. Roughly 1,400 children die every day from diarrheal diseases linked to unsafe water and inadequate sanitation and hygiene.

“That afternoon was a life changing time for me,” Pam says. “I’d like to think that sitting in the audience there was a future World Health Organization worker, a future nurse, a future doctor. I know those kids got what I was saying.”

And it’s important that they do understand, because health education is key to making a water project successful. Teaching about hand washing, proper disposal of waste, and transmission of disease alongside water purification can cut diarrhea cases in a community almost in half. Even better, when students learn health education at school, they go home and teach it to their parents, so good health practices spread throughout the community.

You can help communities get vital health education by giving a gift to safe water this holiday season! And there’s no better time than now. Make a gift before December 31 and your gift will be doubled by the Living Water Fund, a matching fund created by an anonymous WaterStep donor. While all gifts made between now and December 31 will be matched, if you join the fun and give for #GivingTuesday on December 2, we’ll send you a virtual ‘I gave today!’ sticker to share with your friends and family on social media, helping to spread the message of giving even further.


Women Carrying Water: Taking the weight off, one WaterBall at a time

We say it a lot at WaterStep, but it’s true: Too many women and children in the developing world walk long distances every day to get water for their families.

Loice, in Kenya, was one of these women. A mother of 6, she walked to a river by her house to collect water in a plastic bottle that she carried on her head. Because of the tremendous support of our wonderful donors, WaterStep sent out the first of the new WaterBalls to our partners in Ethiopia and Kenya last month in conjunction with World Water Day.

Loice was one of the first to try it out and tell us what she thought. The video below is from her first trip to the river.

The WaterBall Rolls Out for World Water Day

In celebration of World Water Day today, we are rolling out the new WaterBall to our partners in Ethiopia and Kenya!

Every day, a woman in the developing world might walk 5 or more miles to find a water source for her family. Carrying up to 40 pounds of water for several hours a day can cause permanent skeletal damage and prevents her from taking care of her family, getting an education, and improving her quality of life.

For this problem, the WaterBall is one solution. This simple tool for water transportation eases the weight of carrying water, a burden that traditionally falls on women.

To learn more about the WaterBall, read our blog series about the need for the WaterBall, the engineering behind the design, and its creator.

Happy World Water Day!