Lifestraw: H2 Hope

By Nicole Stevenson

The purpose of LifeStraw is simple, provide clean drinking water to those who need it. With all of the focus on preventing famine and providing education to the third world, it’s easy to forget that many of the world’s poor lack something even more necessary: clean water. Yet according to Vestergaard Frandsen, a Swiss-based “Humanitarian Entrepreneurship” company, almost 1 billion people live without access to potable water, and nearly half (43%) lack access to clean water at home. In order to halve the number of people without access to clean water in the next four years, drastic changes need to be made. The company hopes that innovation is the LifeStraw.


How LifeStraw Works

LifeStraw is, as one would guess, a straw. Unlike its fast-food counterparts, this straw measures a hefty 9.8 inches long and 1.14 inches wide and is packed with filtration technology meant to turn untreated water drinkable. This device sends water through individual, chemical chambers, eliminating between 99.9% of and 99.999% of illness causing organisms, depending on type.

Just one LifeStraw can filter 1,000 liters of water from any available supply. An individual can find contaminated water—from an old well, a murky pond, even a roadside puddle—and use LifeStraw to filter and immediately drink clean, safe water. The accessibility and immediacy of the device could drastically reduce the epidemic of water-related deaths; according to Vestergaard Frandsen, 1 in 5 child deaths is due to simple diarrhea.

Children using a life straw in a pond

The cost of LifeStraw

While the unit is portable, effective and convenient, LifeStraw still faces challenges. The biggest one is cost: the price of one LifeStraw is $6.00. However, while this cost can add up, it is still low enough that most aid organizations can afford hundreds, if not thousands, of the devices. It goes without saying that the straw is far more cost effective than creating a purification and piping system in Sub-Saharan Africa, where water-borne illnesses are most rampant.

While LifeStraw may not address the larger scale issue behind the inaccessibility of water in many regions, it does address a pressing global concern in a unique, innovative way. The system could drastically curb cholera, dysentery, and typhoid, amongst other diseases. This isn’t just for the third world – in the wake of disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, water accessibility has become an American issue as well. The need to reduce water-borne illnesses is global. There is still a long way to go in making potable water universally accessible, but LifeStraw could be the first big step in the process.

The future of LifeStraw

Update: Lifestraw is now available for purchase in America at for $19.95. Soon they will introduce the Lifestraw Family, a Lifestraw capable of filtering 18,000 liters, or a 3-year water supply for a family of 5

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