How transforming water changes lives

Through the power of clean water, the P&G Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program is helping to keep children healthy, enabling them to get an education and offering a more promising future for communities all over the world.

Read Caption
Allison Tummon Kamphuis, Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program Leader, visits with children and families in India to hear how clean water is transforming lives in their communities.

How transforming water changes lives

Through the power of clean water, the P&G Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program is helping to keep children healthy, enabling them to get an education and offering a more promising future for communities all over the world.

While it’s something many people in the developed world take for granted, clean drinking water is one of the world’s greatest needs. According to the World Health Organization, access to potable water is a serious challenge for 844 million people worldwide. Without this most basic ingredient to sustaining life and preventing disease, thousands of children die every day. But thanks to the transformative power of a tiny packet of powder, millions of children are now drinking clear, clean water; they are growing, going to school, and becoming leaders in thriving communities.

It all began in the labs of P&G’s laundry scientists working on an initiative to recycle dirty laundry water in water-stressed regions. When they saw the prevalence of open source, filthy, contaminated water in the developing world that so many families had to drink each day, the team expanded their research to help address the global clean drinking water crisis. This research led to the development and testing of an affordable and simple-to-use in-home water purification technology, the P&G Purifier of Water packets.

With only a bucket, a stick, and a clean cloth, this tiny packet of powder purifies 10 liters (2.5 gallons) of dirty, potentially deadly, water into clean drinkable water in only 30 minutes. The packet is simply emptied into the bucket of dirty water and stirred with the stick. Within five minutes, the powder’s coagulant ingredients act as a ‘dirt magnet’ and pull small contaminants out of the water and they begin to flocculate (or stick together) forming larger particles. After another five minutes, these larger particles come together and settle at the bottom of the bucket. Once the clean water is filtered through a cloth, it sits for 20 minutes while the chlorine molecules disinfect the water, killing the bacteria and viruses. The coagulation and flocculation are what cleans the water and then the disinfectant (chlorine) kills contaminants in the water and makes it potable, meeting World Health Organization guidelines for potability and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines for microbiologic water purifiers.

The 3-step process mirrors what happens to billions of gallons of water every day in municipal water treatment plants. The powder’s six ingredients are all commonly used in these plants, but the life-changing magic is in the portability—P&G Purifier of Water packets make this transformative process possible anywhere in the world.

During their research and development phase, P&G teamed up with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to test the packets in multiple locations around the world including Guatemala, Kenya and Pakistan.

Soon, the possibilities for transforming lives all over the globe were clear to see. In 2004, P&G launched its not-for-profit Children’s Safe Drinking Water (CSDW) Program. Today, through a diverse network of more than 150 partners, CSDW provides clean drinking water, reducing the risk of disease and death by about 50 percent.

For the CSDW program’s leader, Allison Tummon Kamphuis, the impact is dramatic and both widespread and personal. “Over the past decade, I have traveled to about 25 countries where I have met hundreds of children and their families whose lives have been transformed by clean water. It’s an inspirational and emotional experience each and every time I’m so warmly welcomed by these communities along with our NGO partners,” she says, stressing the pivotal importance of these many enduring partnerships.

“It is always clear which communities have the benefit of clean water —the children are healthy, and we see girls in school. Moms are engaged in productive economic opportunities for their families, including Mary – a caring, resilient, and optimistic young mother of two in Western Kenya. I met Mary when she was pregnant with her 3rdchild and volunteering at her local community health center. After Mary’s sister narrowly survived cholera, her family felt particularly grateful to have access to clean water through the program. A few months after my visit, Mary and her family welcomed their new baby girl, and I was quite overwhelmed when I learned they named her Allison. It is my hope that she grows up in a world where she, like my own daughters, has access to clean water so she can thrive in school and reach her dreams.”

As the CSDW Program enters its 15th year, P&G and its partners are continually expanding their efforts to ensure that more families like Mary’s can experience the life-changing power of clean water. When disasters happen, the P&G packets are one of the first tools CSDW partners use to provide families with the basic necessity of clean water so they can begin rebuilding their lives.

For more information about how you can help—through education, advocacy, donation, or even just doing your regular shopping during a 1 purchase = 1 liter of clean water campaign at participating retailers like Walmart International— please visit www.csdw.org.

This content is brought to you by our partner. It does not necessarily reflect the views of National Geographic or its editorial staff.