Most of us take access to clean water for granted. But for nearly a billion people around the world, clean water is a commodity that’s hard to come by. In places like Sub-Saharan Africa where diarrheal disease is a major killer, access to clean water could save hundreds of thousands of lives. LifeStraw, a portable water filter that you sip from, was donated to nearly a million households in Kenya last April. The water filter is easy to use, cheap to make, and adds to the growing number of technologies developed by wealthy countries to improve the lives of the people living in impoverished ones.
With a filtering tube nine inches long, one inch in diameter, and weighing less than two ounces, even children can easily carry the LifeStraw wherever they go. Just as its name suggests, you simply lower the end into unfiltered water and drink through the mouthpiece at the top. Unfiltered water goes in one end, clean water out the other. It doesn’t need batteries and needs no extra parts. At least 99.9999% of all waterborne bacteria and 99.9% of waterborne parasites are eliminated. It doesn’t remove heavy metals, but it will reduce the murkiness of the water by removing particles larger than 0.2 micrometers. The simple filter is good enough to pass US EPA water filtration standards. And if used properly, a single LifeStraw can filter at least 1,000 liters (about 264 gallons), or about what a person drinks in a year. The water flow rate is high too, so you don’t have to struggle to quench your thirst.