Two weeks after Hurricane Maria made landfall, more than half of Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million residents still don’t have access to clean drinking water. Luckily there may be a relatively easy solution, developed by Seattle gear company Mountain Safety Research.
You’re likely familiar with MSR’s snowshoes, backpacking stoves, and water filters, which are all designed and built in Washington. MSR also makes water-cleaning products for the U.S. military, which means they have one of the most well-equipped water labs in the world. For the last few years, that lab has focused on trying to create tools that provide clean drinking water to rural communities in developing nations, and in the wake of natural disasters.
Their goal is to fix the problem at its source: water treatment. Municipal water is typically disinfected with chlorine, which removes pathogens like cholera, dysentery, and typhoid—diseases that become more likely after a natural disaster that damages water storage, or pollutes sources. But chlorine has a short shelf life, making it difficult to store and ship. Rural communities often can't get access to the stuff even in good times. Add a transportation-disrupting hurricane to the mix and it's all but impossible.
In response, MSR has developed a simple, robust, and affordable way to make relatively large quantities of chlorine using a limited amount of common household supplies. All its Community Chlorine Maker needs is water, salt, and a 12V battery. In five minutes, the Community Chlorine Maker produces enough chlorine to safely treat 200 liters of drinking water from just 5 milliliters of salt and 100 milliliters of water. A single charge from a 12V battery can create enough chlorine to treat 40,000 liters.
The $239, briefcase-sized kit is easy to store and ship and simple to use, with little or no potential for error. Users just fill the container up to the marked lines with salt and water, then switch the device on. To treat water, just pour the resulting chlorine into a water container. That enables individuals and communities to clean water on the spot, without being reliant on aid shipments.
MSR now just needs to get its devices to Puerto Rico, as well as areas of Mexico that are recovering from recent earthquakes. To that end, the company is raising funds on GoFundMe.