Learning how to make water safe

 In crowded slums and vast rural areas, sewage and pollutants quickly find their way into the water used for drinking, cooking, and washing. Extremely poor areas often lack reliable public treatment systems that keep water clean. Yet many people do not treat their water, and those who do often use traditional methods, such as sari cloths, to remove silt and worms. These methods are ineffective against the contaminants that pose a daily risk of disease.

PATH and our partners are exploring ways to increase access to safe water in homes, beginning in Cambodia, India, and Vietnam. In 2008, we completed research that will help us put safe water within reach of the poorest communities. What we learned about how families think and act is the basis for testing solutions—improved products, promotion, and distribution—now planned for 2009 and beyond.

In Kenya, we investigated the potential of small community treatment systems. In Korogocho, a Nairobi slum, we tested a device that kills dangerous microbes and requires only salt, electricity, and water. Korogocho’s citizens used it to produce clean water for themselves and their neighbors, which provided them with a small income. In the months ahead, PATH will use this experience to test further refinements of the device in communities around the world.


PATH would like to thank the many organizations that are advancing safe water access worldwide, many of which generously shared their knowledge with PATH in 2008. The list of implementation partners will grow as the project advances. Current partners include:

Abt Associates Inc.

Cascade Designs, Inc.

Centre for Social Communication Programs

Emory University


Johns Hopkins University


Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MBAs Without Borders

Monitor Company Group LP

RTI International

Sustainable Business Development, LLC

In particular, PATH would like to thank the Safe Water Project Technical Advisory Group members for their ongoing counsel, feedback, and participation.

Photo: PATH/Julie Jacobson.

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Indian woman and child washing in a river
Communities around the world lack reliable access to safe water. PATH is exploring ways to bring effective water-treatment products within reach of the poorest homes and communities.

This project received innovation funding at a critical point in its development.