Solutions Archives - Page 2 of 4 - WaterStep

Nonprofit Challenges & the Role of Millennials

Victoria Shover, WaterStep Ambassador reporting in!

The moment I learned of my acceptance into the Fulbright Program as an English Teaching Assistant in Spain, I immediately began to wonder about the people I would meet during this academic year. The incredibly impressive group of Fulbrights that I have come to know, respect and admire surpassed any and all expectations.

Fulbright Scholar on nonprofit challenges

As the Fulbright Mid Year Conference in Valencia approached, (which is the final of only two times the entire Fulbright Commission of Spain comes together) I knew that this would be a great opportunity to share WaterStep with individuals who were intelligent, well traveled, inquisitive and passionate about what they do. I planned a presentation (shout out to WaterStep Millennials and Fulbright Yanique Campbell for your editing suggestions!) about how to logically layout collaborative efforts to unite WaterStep’s cause with Fulbright Millennials an address typical nonprofit challenges.

“I believe that NGOs and millennials have great potential to promote each other.”

Check out Victoria’s speech to learn how she sees millennials addressing current nonprofit challenges and looking towards the future.

To generate collaborative ideas and continue our conversations, the Fulbright Commission kindly supported my efforts by emailing a three question survey to all Fulbrights (TAs, graduate researchers and senior scholars). The survey is to collect information about levels of interest for those wishing to collaborate and suggestions to whom WaterStep could reach out to. You can view the survey here.

As the responses continue to roll in, I continue to be impressed by this group of Fulbrights. By loving what they do and taking water with them, they will be able to join the fight against the world water crisis and seek solutions to nonprofit challenges.

“We are perfectly equipped to take on the role of improving the nonprofit sector. Perhaps we could even find ourselves living in a more just and less thirsty world.”

I’m thankful to WaterStep for encouraging me to become a WaterStep Ambassador on behalf of the 875 million people currently lacking access to safe water. I’m equally thankful to the Fulbright Commission of Spain for accepting me into this program, providing me the opportunity to share my passion for water with my peers and for continuing to generate the space and environment for collective think tanks and relationship building gatherings. My hope is that from this experience, two incredible organizations can continue to learn and support one another to save lives with safe water, bringing us closer to a wold imagined by Senator J. William Fulbright.

West Virginia Water Shortage

Philippines run for water

People in the Philippines run to safe water after the destruction of Typhoon Haiyan.


West Virginia Water Response

People in West Virginia have easy access to safe water after a chemical spill cuts of water supply.

As an international organization, we at WaterStep are accustomed to disaster relief work on an international level. We have responded to disasters in Costa Rica, Haiti, Pakistan, India, and most recently the Philippines. Our recent work in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan led us to an inspired group of people who were desperate for a way to take their access to water into their own hands. Check out our Facebook page to see individual albums of people who installed and are maintaining their own water purification system through our training.

As you may have heard, the government declared a state of emergency in Charleston, West Virginia, after a Freedom Industries tank spilled a toxic chemical that is used to process coal, contaminating the municipal water supply. The spill left an estimated 300,000 people without safe water to drink.

Friday morning, we were contacted by the National Rural Water Association asking if we could respond in any way. We planned to respond by setting up a water distribution center capable of providing safe water for up to 10,000 people, and contacted West Virginia Rural Water Association (WVRWA) to coordinate. Immediately, we began assembling a team and the necessary supplies in order to arrive in Charleston, West Virginia the next day.

Shortly after, WVRWA contacted us to let us know that because a state of emergency had been declared, water bottles would be supplied instead of alternative solutions and our technology would not be needed. We decided to send a team to observe the disaster relief efforts, anyway. Upon arrival, we realized that bottled water was being distributed to those in need around the affected areas, and those areas felt much less like disaster relief zones than our previous work. As you can see in our photos, water bottles were being delivered in masses and no one seemed to be concerned about their access to water.

In the United States, our citizens are well taken care of by a government that is prepared for disaster relief and our water bottle industry. This minimizes panic in the face of disasters compared to the reactions of people in other countries. While reports Monday morning were expecting a return to normal water supply soon, the water has not yet been approved as safe to drink. The West Virginia Gazette reported that Federal Emergency Management Agency would supply an estimated 3 million liters of water over the course of the week.

In the midst of this lack of water, we were compelled to ask the question: Are water bottles truly the best option? With millions distributed in just days, the negative environmental impact was evident. Additionally, we wondered what the next step would be if and when the water bottles ran out. Our friend Charles Fishman writes in The Big Thirst, “In a crisis, even in a pinch, bottled water will not save us.”

Below, our chart puts our water solution into perspective. We compare one 747 jet plane, sent to the Philippines disaster zone loaded with 325,000 water bottles, with WaterStep’s Water Disaster Kit.

Screen shot 2014-01-13 at 10.49.42 AM

The same comparison is viable with disaster relief work here in America. Bottled water is simply not as efficient.

As the discussion continues over disaster relief, WaterStep continues to look for sustainable, environmentally-friendly solutions to water access both in developing countries and here in our own backyard.

What are your thoughts? Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest to join the conversation.

More News on West Virginia Chemical Spill:

NBC News

New York Times


Associated Press

Simple Engineering Solutions for the Developing World: The WaterBall

Kyle Hunter is the creator of the WaterBall, a technology developed to ease the load of women in the developing world, who walk miles every day to reach safe water sources. Hunter’s story shows the passion, intentionality, and thought that went into the WaterBall, and WaterStep is excited to take the next steps to insure that the technology reaches its full potential. Hunter said, “I believe that this simple idea can provide a grassroots opportunity,” and WaterStep agrees.

WaterBall: Sustainable Technology for Developing World Waterball2


Hunter was working as a consultant engineer in Dallas when he read an article called “Preventing Illness and Saving Lives in Developing Countries,” written by Kurtis Daniels on WaterStep’s water purification efforts. Because he was interested in sustainable engineering, the concept sparked his interest, and eventually shaped his sense of purpose.

Later, Hunter started a water treatment non-profit focused in Latin America. He began working with schools and organizations to provide them with water. While working for the school Acortar Distancias, which was located in Guadalajara, in Jalisco, Mexico, he learned that the nearest water source was two miles away.

Hunter said, “The day I was told that the water was two miles from the school, I started thinking, and I woke up at about 2 am and finalized the first Water-Ball design on the whiteboard I kept in my room.” The initial design was made from wood and metal, but was later modified when thinking about the communities it was intended for.

watball collage

While fundraising for the WaterBall, Hunter was pushed to work with WaterStep through “a couple of strange events that led me to Kentucky,” he said. Hunter was inspired by his father, who told him, “God speaks more through a whisper of silence than through the shaking of the Earth,” after Hunter argued that it would take a “burning bush” for him to hear and understand what he was being called to do. The next day, a friend, who did not know about the conversation with his dad, gave Hunter a silver medallion with a burning bush on it. Without having any official plans, Hunter said, “I booked my flight to Kentucky to meet Kurtis and Mark that night.”

Hunter stayed in a nearby monastery while he waited to meet with WaterStep about the next steps for the WaterBall. During that time, Hunter read four books and spent time talking to anyone who would listen about the WaterBall.

The first day Hunter met with WaterStep’s team, they spoke about what he was trying to accomplish, and he had one of his four prototypes shipped to them overnight. Mark Hogg and Kurtis Daniels of WaterStep quickly saw the potential and importance of Hunter’s idea, and agreed to work with him to move the project forward.

Bill Clinton discusses sustainable technology, WaterBall

Former President Bill Clinton discussed the future of the WaterBall and sustainable technology with WaterStep CEO Mark Hogg.

Since then, the WaterBall has been redesigned multiple times, tested in the field, and further studied and developed. WaterStep kicked off its campaign this month to raise enough money to create a mold that will allow the WaterBall to be mass produced and taken to women and children in the developing world whose lives can be changed because of the simple, innovative technology.

As for Hunter, he continues to follow the project closely, as WaterStep’s fundraising efforts continue. “I am glad to see the project move forward,” he said, “Money provides great opportunity for selfless acts when guided through compassion.” Hunter also hopes that in the future, he will be able to continue developing simple, engineered solutions for the developing world.

To learn more about the design of the WaterBall, and to be a part of the movement, check out our WaterBall page!


WaterBall Part 2: The Design

The intent of this blog is to explain in more detail the design process of the WaterBall.  Two design iterations were done, the first WaterBall prototype (referred to as WaterBall 1.0 for this post) was created and taken to Haiti for testing.  A second prototype (WaterBall 2.0) was developed based on changes desired after field testing.  The driving factors behind redesigning the WaterBall were cost and size, WaterStep sought to decrease manufacture cost while also decreasing the size for the sake of shipping and handling while in use.  We wanted a product that not only help women and children transport water, but a product that would help them transport water more efficiently.  Below is a chart that highlights some of the main differences between the two designs.

Component WaterBall 1.0 WaterBall 2.0
Diameter (inches) 24 17
Volume (gallons) 30 12.5
Water Mass when full (lbs) 240 100
Height  4′ 6″ 4′
Cap Narrow Fitting Wide Fitting
Mold Style Injection Rotomold

Shipping Impact– To fit a standard 60” (20” x  20” x 20”) shipping container, the radius of the ball was changed from 24” to 17”.  Along with a handle that can be broken down and assembled in country, this allows containment goals to be met.

Mass & Volume Impact– In order to meet the abilities of women and girls, who are often undernourished and of small frame, the WaterBall needs to be relatively light weight.  When testing Design 1 it was determined that the WaterBall was too massive for target users.  Keeping this in mind, designers controlled the maximum allowed volume and mass for the ball using diameter.  See the formulas and conversions below.

V = 4/3πr       1 in3 = 230 gal.

Height (Handle) Impact – As mentioned above, women and girls tend to be of small frame in the developing world.  This means that a four and a half foot tall WaterBall was not user friendly for them.  By shortening the handle by just six inches the Waterball became much more functional for them.  It was also designed in segments that can be broken down into less than 20” segments to fit the desired shipping dimensions.

Cap - While testing in the field, users noted that the cap was rather narrow for filling the ball with water, and had interior threaded fitting prone to collecting dirt and fouling the water as it enters the ball.  To remedy this, WaterBall 2.0 has a 2” diameter fitting with exterior threads on the fitting.  The cap was also replaced from a “heavy duty” to a less costly version that will be easier to replace in country.

Cost - In addition to the above changes, a lowering the cost of the WaterBall manufacture was also desired.  For the most part each change in design contributes to lowering the cost of the WaterBall, but switching the design to rotomold and investing in a mold specifically created for the ball part of the WaterBall allows a significant cost decrease from WaterBall 1.0 to WaterBall 2.0.  By streamlining this part of the manufacture process WaterStep will invest money up front to cover overhead costs so that in the future manufacture per ball is significantly decreased, with total cost over time being less in the end.



WaterBall Part 1: Why the WaterBall?


When you want water, what do you do? Chances are you walk to your kitchen and turn on your faucet. What if you didn’t have a faucet, or what if when you turned your faucet on, nothing came out? You’d have to walk for water. This is the reality for lots of people in the world. In the developing world, people walk an average of 6.2 miles to get to a water source. This burden usually falls on women and children.

So you have to walk for water. What does this mean?

  1. It’s heavy. One gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds. That means that a 5 gallon container of water (a pretty modest volume if you remember that the average American uses 80+ gallons of water daily) weighs more than 40 pounds. A woman walking several miles every day with 40 pounds of water strapped to her back, her side, or sitting on top of her head can do severe damage to her skeletal structure. This is especially true if she is carrying water at a young age while her body is still developing.
  1. It’s risky. A woman or child walking alone lugging 40 pounds of water is vulnerable to being harassed, attacked, robbed, kidnapped, raped, or killed.
  1. There’s an opportunity cost. A woman or child might spend up to three hours daily carrying water. For those three hours, she is not taking care of her family, going to school, or doing anything else.


What is the solution?

Here’s one: the WaterBall, one of the tools in WaterStep’s tool box. And it’s really basic. The WaterBall is simply a plastic sphere with a cap and a handle to push it. It can hold 12-25 gallons of water depending on the size of the sphere.

How does it work? Very simply. Using the handle you push the WaterBall to a safe water source, fill it up, and take it home.

The WaterBall replaces buckets, Jerrycans, and other containers for carrying water. What does this mean?

  1. Less strain. There is less direct weight on the body, which reduces the chance of permanent skeletal damage from carrying heavy loads of water.
  1. More water. Because of the design you can carry more water in one trip. More than 100 pounds.
  1. More time. Carrying more water in one trip means less time carrying water, so you have more time to do other things like go to school, take care of a family, start a business, and improve your quality of life.

So why I am talking about the WaterBall? The WaterBall is a great example of how simple design and innovative engineering can help solve the world’s biggest problem: sustainable access to a safe water source.

Currently, the WaterBall is still in development. WaterStep, with the help of volunteer engineers from General Electric, has designed, tested, and deployed water balls in Haiti. But we want to do more.

We want to put 300 more WaterBalls into the field.

Next week WaterStep kicks off its campaign to raise $50,000 for the final design, manufacturing, assembly, and shipping of 300 WaterBalls.  This, frankly, is going to take the support of a lot of folks. And I hope that if you’ve read this far, your curiosity is piqued and you’re interested in supporting WaterStep’s goal to put 300 WaterBalls into the field. In the next week, in conjunction with IF Water, WaterStep will be gearing up for the WaterBall campaign, sharing videos, articles, and information about effective water transportation and the WaterBall. To learn how you can help, stay tuned to this blog, Twitter, and Facebook.

Up next: a look at how the WaterBall is designed.