Solve two problems with one filter? That’s what Drinkwell aims to do. Begun through a collaboration between researchers at Lehigh University and the Bengal Engineering and Science University, the Boston-based social venture — recently named winner of the 2014 SXSW Eco Social Impact for Profit competition — offers an innovative approach to removing arsenic, an odorless, colorless carcinogen, from drinking water while providing a business enterprise to local people.
Arsenic occurs naturally in groundwater in many parts of Southeast Asia. The World Health Organization reports it affects more than 200 million people in 70 different countries. Not only that, but according to Drinkwell, the contamination has cost Bangladesh alone billions of dollars in lost GDP.
Drinkwell’s solution? A resin-based filter that is far more energy- and water-efficient than conventional reverse osmosis approaches to cleaning up arsenic-contaminated water. To boost local economies while reducing the arsenic health risk, the company has developed a “select, build, sell, collect” approach that engages local entrepreneurs to market the systems, teaches community members how to maintain the technology, provides jobs, and shows members how to collect data and monitor their results. The technology has already been successfully deployed in 200 communities across Laos, India and Cambodia.