New project targets global need for safe drinking water

December 8, 2006 by PATH

Project to focus on home treatment and storage products

Ellen Cole, 206.285.3500,

Seattle, December 8, 2006—The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded PATH $17 million to test new approaches to making sure that low-income people in developing countries have safe drinking water in their homes. The grant, distributed over five years, will allow PATH to identify low-cost consumer products that can treat and store water in the home and to develop a commercial market for those products.

Safe drinking water is essential to good health. However, in resource-poor settings, water often comes from unsafe sources and carries deadly microbes. The World Health Organization estimates that 1.8 million people die each year from diarrheal diseases, many of which are attributed to an unsafe water supply. That’s one of the reasons why safe drinking water is part of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals that were signed by 189 countries in 2000 (the metric is to decrease by 50 percent the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water by 2015).

Building on work pioneered by existing water experts, PATH will work closely with the private sector, safe water experts, and other actors in the development, marketing, and distribution of a range of products that will effectively treat unsafe water and that are practical and affordable to families in the developing world. The organization will also work to ensure access to the products and to promote their use in the most vulnerable communities.

The end goal: commercial market forces fulfill the essential, universal need for safe water over the long term and in a way that can grow to global proportions.

“This award is a chance to address one of the most pressing challenges in global health—how to get safe water to people in need,” said Christopher J. Elias, MD, MPH, president of PATH. “We are particularly excited to use our 30 years of experience in creating and adapting technologies for low-resource settings on such a critical issue.”

PATH has worked to develop and introduce health technologies that are workable and affordable in low-resource settings since 1977. PATH and its partners have commercialized 26 health technologies, 19 of which are currently being used in the developing world.