Better Water Maker Helps Children and Environment


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clean-water

By Kavitha Pramod
July 23, 2012

As the world’s population continues to grow, so too does the stress on the world’s fresh water resources. While most of us merely contemplate the alarming statistics about shrinking water supplies, or perhaps watch a documentary about water conflict, one company has stepped up to ensure that more communities around the world have access to cleaner water.

HARBEC Plastics Inc. was established in 1977 in a small town outside of Rochester, New York. HARBEC started as a contract general machine shop and tool and die company, but founder Bob Bechtold quickly realized that there were bigger possibilities. After working hard for decades and establishing HARBEC as a leader in the field of plastics, Bechtold then looked to what he could do to improve the world.

Clean water access struck Bechtold as an essential issue to which his company could make a difference. He was especially moved by the plight of millions of children in the developing world. As he started to research clean water access, he began learning about the harms associated with the E. coli bacteria. He learned that E. coli often causes illnesses such as dysentery, which children under the age of five rarely survive.

Moved by these statistics and more, he embarked on a journey to create a portable water treatment device that would be solely focused on eliminating the harm caused by E. coli bacteria in untreated water. The solution, as he saw it, was a light and movable device that could be operated by individuals in any environment. Such a device was very different from existing water treatment devices that were large, costly, and not accessible to the people who needed them most.

Thus, Bechtold created and patented the “Better Water Maker.” The machine has two main parts: an ultraviolet (UV) light bulb and a hand-powered generator. Power from the generator pulls water up through a tube and forces it to go past the UV bulb. Once the E. coli bacteria are exposed to UV light from the bulb, they are rendered inactive and harmless.

So the taste and color of the water does not change, but the water no longer poses the risk of causing  diseases such as dysentery. The Better Water Maker also kills other harmful elements in untreated water.

The progress the Better Water Maker brings about in humanitarian efforts is obvious, but there are huge environmental benefits as well. There is already “water stress” in many parts of the world, meaning places where the available fresh water is not enough to meet the needs of the people living there. It is very important to develop sustainable ways to use the water that is available, as it is not always sustainable to transport and store large quantities fresh water.

Additionally, huge investments do not need to be made by governments in order for people to benefit from the product.  Instead, it only needs to be distributed at a local level and used directly by the people who need access to clean water.

The Better Water Maker has the potential to help millions of people, especially children, throughout the world. However, it has been a long road in getting the device to the people who need it the most.

One of the first challenges Bechtold faced was building credibility for the Better Water Maker. When he launched the device it was the first of its kind, so he needed to validate its performance with lab testing. He also needed to get the product into the field for firsthand evidence. Nearly all the initial funding for the construction and distribution of the device came from Bechtold’s own pocket.

The company’s first goal was to get 100 units out in the field in different parts of the developing world. Bechtold’s friend was able to take a unit to his family’s home village near Accra in Ghana. By working with the local people, he was able to get the unit certified by the Ghana Water Research Institute while also gathering testimonies and documentation on how well the product was working.

After this initial success, the Better Water Maker has been used in orphanages, hospitals, and other community organizations in a number of countries, including Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Peru, Tibet and Haiti. As of today, Bechtold has succeeded in placing 85 units in various countries, and HARBEC is just weeks away from reaching its initial goal of distributing 100 units. Testimonials from individuals out in the field have been overwhelmingly positive and encouraging, according to Bechtold.

Bechtold’s next goal is to get 1000 units distributed worldwide to communities in need of clean water. The hope is that investors will purchase a group of units to then sell directly to individuals or organizations in the developing world, use this money to purchase more units to sell, and start the distribution cycle all over again. He also sees a great potential for the product to generate income for individuals in these communities, and this idea has been supported by testimonials that he has received.

Sierra Club Green Home hopes you find Bechtold’s work as inspiring as we do! This combination of social responsibility and creative thinking truly makes the world a better place.

For related article, see:
A Stove That Saves Lives and Slows Global Warming

© 2012 SCGH, LLC.

One Response

  1. pushpa rao July 25, 2012

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