By Helmi Ansari
Our relationship with water and the quality of said water plays a major role in shaping the course of our lives. It’s uncommon for many people to give access to clean, safe water a second thought as it’s a given that the majority of the environments that engulf our everyday lives will be able to provide this basic need. Our homes, schools and places of work are all able to accommodate us through complex systems that provide clean, filtered water. Meanwhile, throughout the world, there are communities facing a different reality. These people must make do with what is available, often in the form of unreliable and/or contaminated water sources. The use of these sources can and often do result in the development of waterborne infections, causing the loss of health, education and even life.
The month of August was National Water Quality Month, which highlights the importance of the overall amount of quality, fresh water that we have available. While there is incredible weight in understanding the importance of preserving the fresh water that exists for our own personal use as well as use within our agricultural systems and public grids, we must first acknowledge and assist the millions of people that face every single day without access to this essential compound of life. For more than 10 years, I’ve found myself immersed within this topic, building and shaping a safe water project. Here are the key factors you need to know about this crisis, our mission and the technology behind it.
Who is affected by the safe water crisis?
As I dove deeper into the factors of this crisis, I became much more aware of just how varied our way of life can be. You likely wake up every morning in an apartment or home with amenities that offer clean, running water at a range of temperatures and proper waste management. At the same time, others begin their day by walking to a water source and collecting what they can carry home to their families. The quality of this source is ever-changing and often unknown; however, it is all-encompassing as it is drinking water as well as the water they use for cooking, bathing and cleaning. These two scenarios demonstrate just how impactful and detrimental our relationship with water can be in our lives.
Entire communities are impacted by the safe water crisis, particularly in many developing regions and countries. Per data from UNICEF and the World Health Organization, an estimated 2.2 billion people worldwide do not have access to safely managed drinking water, and 144 million of those people, often located in remote and impoverished locations, drink untreated surface water. When a common barrier, such as unsafe water, is prominent throughout a community, it impacts all aspects of life including the ability to seek education and improve one’s socioeconomic status.
How can technology and education eliminate obstacles?
There will never be one sole solution that solves the safe water crisis for every part of the world. Multiple solutions and technologies will continue to be needed, particularly due to varying weather, climates and available resources. Through our Safe Water Project, we look to help solve this issue for people living in warm or tropical regions. This is done through the use of biosand water filters. These filters are an improved version of the technology found in slow sand filters, which have been used for hundreds of years. Biosand filters are affordable and durable, with each filter able to purify water for 10 people for up to 30 years. Utilizing only sand, gravel and warm climate, this technology is able to remove the majority of bacteria, protozoa, worms and viruses.
Another benefit of this technology is that it is created and maintained with supplies that typically can be found within each given community. Once a filter is established for a family, we then can simply provide education on how to properly use this technology and the regular upkeep that it will require. For these reasons, we selected biosand water filters as the best solution to implement in order to carry out our mission.
What is the Safe Water Project and what are we striving to achieve?
GROSCHE is a social enterprise that I founded alongside my wife in 2006. We’ve grown this business and our mission from the ground up, creating the Safe Water Project, where we dedicate the profits from the sale of our coffee, tea and hydration products to tackle the issue of unsafe water for communities located in India, Malawi, Pakistan, Philippines, South Sudan and Uganda. This is done through providing members of these communities with biosand water filters.
Personal experience has been at the core of this enterprise as I was motivated to start this company after one of my daughters developed a waterborne illness. After consuming unsafe drinking water while we were traveling, I witnessed her struggle with the illness as well as her ultimate recovery. This opened my eyes to a terrifying reality. Millions of people are at high risk for being affected by these illnesses as they are consuming water that is contaminated with bacteria, viruses, worms and/or fecal matter each day. When this is the only available option to them, a devastating cycle of consuming unsafe water is created or continued. GROSCHE is here to break that cycle.
It is easy for a matter to slip from our minds once a recognition month has come and gone. In my case, running the Safe Water Project is a daily reminder that we must continuously bring awareness to this issue as well as create access to clean water for those in need.
Helmi Ansari is the CEO and chief sustainability officer at GROSCHE International, Inc. He and his wife, Mehreen, founded GROSCHE in 2006 and sell their coffee, tea and hydration gear to raise money for the GROSCHE Safe Water Project. GROSCHE is a multiple award winning company and has funded over 200 million days of safe water for people in need and counting. By the end of 2022, GROSCHE is looking to grow that number to 300 million days of safe water.