In an era when complex innovations continually make our lives healthier and better, it’s easy to forget that much of the world still struggles with basic survival. Yet over a billion people currently live without access to safe drinking water and 30,000 people die each week from diseases caused by unsafe water and living conditions. To help address this issue, Nottingham Spirk partnered with Greif, a world leader in industrial packaging, to develop a better way to transport and store safe drinking water.

The burden of water supply typically falls on women and children, who walk miles each day to find water and bring it back to their families. Frequently, the only available means of transport is a dirty bucket or jerry can that previously held pesticides, fuel or other chemicals.

David Fischer, CEO of Greif, recognized an opportunity to help solve this problem and challenged Nottingham Spirk to innovate a safe, ergonomic, economical solution using Greif’s industrial-grade woven polypropylene. Our project team of industrial designers and engineers studied the existing reality, developed an initial concept and worked with Greif’s manufacturing team to create multiple rapid prototypes. Greif’s Scott Griffin then worked with several organizations in Haiti to conduct field studies in diverse communities. The team analyzed the results – carefully observing how the prototypes were used – and completed several rounds of refinement.

The result? PackH20 – a lightweight, collapsible backpack that holds 20 liters, or about 5 gallons, of fresh, safe water. The ergonomic, hands-free design is seven times lighter than a plastic jerry can, significantly reducing the risk of neck and back injury. And PackH20 includes a removable liner that can be sanitized with sunlight to ensure the water supply remains safe after continued usage.

Popular Science recently selected PackH20 for a 2012 Best of What’s New award, calling it “an elegant solution to a problem faced by millions of people.” Jacob Ward, editor-in-chief, described the awards as honoring “the innovations that surprise and amaze us – those that make a positive impact on our world today and challenge our view of what’s possible in the future.”

Greif along with their foundation and NGO partners has distributed over 15,000 PackH20s to date. You can help them reach additional families for just $10 per pack. To make a donation or learn more, visit www.packh2o.com.

View more stories in the Winter 2013 Newsletter

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