GE Volunteers Help Develop New Technology To Stop Waterborne Illness

When you think about where the next world changing technology will come from, Kentucky probably isn’t the place that springs to mind. Yet, through a partnership with GE and the Louisville Water Company, a Kentucky-based non-profit called WaterStep could do just that.

The organization develops and distributes simple, low-cost solutions that give communities easier access to safe water. Approximately 1.1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water and more than two out of six (2.6 billion) lack adequate sanitation. Every day, thousands of people, mostly children and the elderly, die because of this shortcoming. WaterStep’s compact, easy-to-install water purification system could be instrumental in the fight against waterborne illness, but the organization needed a way to get their design out of the basement and onto the production lines–and that’s why GE stepped in to help.

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Image via GE

GE employees and retirees have been volunteering their time to help WaterStep design and test simple, inexpensive water chlorination systems that could be used all over the world. The result is the M100: a portable water purification system that generates chlorine through electrolysis. It operates using only a small amount of table salt and either a 12-volt car battery or solar panels. According to WaterStep, it generates enough chlorine to disinfect 38,000 liters of water per day–enough for about 10,000 people–and the by-products created during the water purification process can be used to disinfect medical equipment and kill mosquito larvae. Assistance from GE’s Appliance Design department allowed the organization to 75 percent off the cost of production.

In addition to helping WaterStep fine tune the design, GE also lent its extensive experience in lean manufacturing to help bring the product to market faster. “With GE’s involvement, we were able to save significant costs on the newly designed chlorinators, have more control over the supply and manufacturing and allow us to own the process,” said Mark Hogg, executive director of WaterStep. “Most importantly, with GE support, we can save more lives by providing more clean water.”

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog