Edited August 22, 2010

The floods in Pakistan have killed up to 1,500 and left six million homeless, the BBC reports. Death tolls will likely rise as officials expect the continuation of monsoon season to worsen Pakistan’s most severe flooding in more than 80 years.

Many men, women and children are still waiting for aid as groups struggle to traverse land submerged in muddy water.

If aid doesn’t reach some areas soon, the death toll could rise sharply because of an influx in the spread of water-borne illnesses. Dehydration is common, but can be avoided, if aid organizations start handing out filter bottles, like those made by Lifesaver.

Now I don’t have any connection to Lifesaver. But these floods reminded me of a TED lecture I watched late last year. In it, Lifesaver CEO Michael Pritchard pours a combination of dreadful bacteria-laden objects into a fish tank full of water. He then mixes it around to create a brown sludge, a color of water familiar to anyone who has either been to fresh water-lacking areas of our globe, or has seen them on TV.

Pritchard then scoops the water into his water bottle, pulls out a pump from its base and pushes and pulls it back and forth a few times. He then pops the cap and voila; crystal clear water. He even drinks it just to prove its safety. The audience reaction is priceless.

How does it work? Well, Pritchard says the advanced nanotech and carbon filters in the bottle are 15 nanometres, which can filter out 99.9 percent of viruses, chemicals and bacteria, including polio. The individual bottles have a lifespan of about  6,000 litres. The jerrycan can last 20000 litres.

Then there’s the Lifestraw, which a person can just pop into a pool of water and suck through. It’s good for about 700 litres. When the filter no long works, Pritchard says the filter shuts down on its own.

There are, of course, other systems like this in place, and they are no doubt being used to some degree by aid organizations. But they definitely can be used more. Lifesaver sent more than 1,000 bottles down to Haiti, and they’ve been helping a lot.

Access to clean water for Pakistan’s displaced is key to saving lives and reducing the number of illnesses. If aid organizations can just scoop up stagnant water and seconds later use it to hydrate a child or clean a mother’s wound, the situation could become less severe.

Even if it doesn’t have a huge impact, something isn’t nothing, and Pakistan could use the help.

About The Author

Sachin Seth is the Blast Magazine world news reporter. He writes the Terra blog. You can visit his website at http://sachinseth.com or follow him on twitter @sachinseth

3 Responses

  1. howie

    The Lifesaver costs $150 retail, the Lifestraw costs about $2 (under review, but probably within a factor of 2). Both do about the same thing, that is using a microfiltration membrane to filter out microorganisms but letting ions through. The complexity of the Lifesaver in making pressurized water in the bottle makes it expensive. The Lifestraw makes you suck to create the pressure. It seems for emergencies such as Pakistan I’d go with the Lifestraw instead of the Lifesaver.


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