by Maya Foster
The name Aquatas derives from the latin words “equitas”, meaning justice, fairness, & equity, and “aqua”, signifying water. Together, these disparate words bring to life the essence of what Aquatas strives to do — ensure equal access to clean, drinkable water.
It is a sad reality that a great number of individuals on Earth, around 2 million in fact, do not have reliable access to clean drinking water. Despite us, as human beings, being predominantly composed of water — this basic necessity isn’t granted to us all. Over 700 million people lack even a basic drinking-water service, including 150 million who are dependent on collecting surface water.
As I write this, I am faced with the truth that I have not had to struggle to find clean water to drink. In fact, my childhood is full of memories entirely unrelated to water consumption: balloons filled with water tossed playfully at friends and water droplets splashed about in swimming pools during hot summers. Water was available to me in disposable plastic bottles, a running sink, and drinking fountains at the various schools I was educated in. Not once could I remember wondering whether I would have the opportunity to drink water for the day.
I was privileged.
In stark contrast to my lived experience is another individual’s reality that I am blissfully unaware of. They did not and perhaps still do not have the luxury to toss around water in balloons at friends or casually swim in swimming pools. They might be trekking some number of miles to the closest water source to get the basic necessities for themselves and their family. This inequity is a harsh reality that is tragically too prevalent.
Water inequity is a pervasive issue that has significant health implications depending on the contamination levels and general health of the consumer of polluted sources. When one imagines contaminated water, what often immediately comes to mind is slit and dirt, bacteria and microorganisms, and plant decay. However, there can be toxic traces of even more dangerous contaminants such as heavy metals. For example, consumption of the heavy metals lead and arsenic can elicit symptoms of muscle weakness, organ failure, and heart deficits. Climate change is only worsening the situation. Groundwater resources are becoming more concentrated with pollutants and corroded piping in cities are only augmenting the problem. And, as is the case with most situations, it is the families facing economic disparity who are impacted the most.
And that’s where the story of Aquatas comes in.
On a lawn, during the period of time where classes were winding down and finals were creeping about, a group of first-year students of diverse academic interests but with a united passion for health equity decided to go on a whim and invest in an idea. An idea that became a plan and then a physical manifestation that could potentially solve an aspect of the water crisis
Aquatas figured that to stand an optimistic chance at battling the water scarcity problem, there needed to be a tool that could filter all of the aforementioned contaminants, but also has a promise of temporal sustainability and high efficiency that did not financially burden the families who needed it most. Thus, an ideal solution from our perspective was an easy-to-use, affordable high water output device that was functional in settings with little infrastructure.
To get to a point where we felt comfortable that our product met all these requirements, we conducted extensive research during summers and our engineers experimented with various designs that were consulted by experts at their home university, Johns Hopkins. Their tenacity yielded a solution that requires no external energy resources that might be limited in low economic infrastructures, but merely leverages the mechanical power of the human body. To begin, one pours in dirty water, gives it a few pumps and then opens the tap for clean drinking water within seconds. This provides the user with an affordable table-top device which gives them greater flexibility in water usage than ever before. Our device has a one time wholesale cost of just 30 dollars and the filter requires replacement only once a year at a cost of 5 dollars.
Today, Aquatas is a full-fledge student run social enterprise, passionate about addressing the global water shortage by providing an affordable water purification system. What sets us apart is that when compared to competitors, our solutions achieves all of the following: high output, low energy requirement, can filter heavy metals, and affordability to the desired market.
The journey and evolution of Aquatas has come a long way over the past few years. We have won multiple awards and tons of support from grant funding. As far as next steps, we are well on our way to launching our first pilot studies in Mexico and India. Our mission is to address the ever-growing problem of clean water shortages that plague developing regions. So as an entity, we will fulfill that promise by continuously striving to provide an efficient and affordable water purification system that promotes both the health and societal well-being of low income individuals around the world. The hope is that our solution has the potential to mitigate the growing water crisis. Ultimately, it is our intent that this hope becomes a truth.