One Drop Foundation

This remind me of our first exercise to be able to live with only 5 gallons of water per day. Watch the great presentation about it and what this organization is doing to promote the access to water as a fundamental right. They talk about the inequality of distribution and the problems of accesibility around the world and you can also suggest how you can impact these issues.

By Stella

This is a link to a document that contains interesting information and background about the water system in Chile; it talks specifically about the company that delivers water in Santiago (the same that installed the emergency tank before our visit). It also includes some interesting numbers like the water tariff in Santiago. This information may lead to a very interesting business model…

by Stella

We all experienced how difficult to get hot water in Chile. I found this video online talks about Solar Water heater in China. And compared with an electric heater, a solar heater in Dezhou, which starts at about US$190, pays for itself in five and a half years.


Telling a Story through Statistics

From Harper’s Index:

Chance that a person worldwide lacks adequate drinking water due to socioeconomic conditions: 1 in 6

Estimated portion of all freshwater drawn from U.S. sources each year that is used to cool power plants: 1/2

Percentage of Fortune 1000 companies that say a water shortage would be “severe” or “catastrophic” to their business: 40

Percentage that say they have made preparations for such a shortage: 17


My 2 cents on ‘Responsible’ Design:

Is it possible to make exceptions in sustainability and still consider our efforts to be responsible and conscientious? It is a question we must all ask, as it is not always in-line with our primary goal as designers. For SWC, we are designing to improve the quality of life for those living in the slums of Chile, and possibly, to even reduce illness and save lives. This is an extraordinary cause and not an easy task to say the least. Beyond the design challenge with the limited materials and resources, there are also family dynamics, economic challenges, and political struggles to also be addressed. If after 12 weeks, we are able to develop a product and system to address some these issues successfully, are we to reconsider their implementation if they are not ecologically sound? Who is to decide whether a child in the slums should sacrifice his or her health because it may impact a rare species of birds in Patagonia? Which is a more pressing issue? Which deserves priority over the other?

The answers to these questions will differ from designer to designer, and the answer is just that: a personal decision. This is why sustainability must be implemented into our design phase from the very beginning, to avoid such situations. If one designs with sustainability in mind, then the design process should answer this great dilemma all on its own. Though, it is easy where such a dilemma can arise.

My personal  experience: Fall 2008 I was part of  a team designing potable water solutions for Pasaquim, Guatemala. The team included two mechanical engineer students, one grad chemist, an industrial designer from Guatemala, and myself, the product designer. Through our research and our various sources in Guatemala, we realized how limited our access to sustainable materials were, especially with our design specifications. More importantly, the citizens of Pasaquim were limited by these materials and supplies, both by availability and financially. So, we were faced with a dilemma: start the design process again and find another solution since we were unable to find a sustainable that met our specifications, or take keep our clever approach towards this problem and use PVC as the housing material. PVC is extremely affordable, accessible in every hardware store in Guatemala, and easy to work with. On the flip side, it is one of the worst man made materials when it comes to environmental and human health (in production).

Awa Water Filter, 2008

Though the debate went on, the majority of the team made the decision to go with PVC because it satisfied our primary goal and could potentially make a huge dent in the 54% of child deaths caused by malnutrition and lack of potable water. I was not a supporter of the decision to accept this iteration of the design as our final prototype, but at the same time, I stayed on the team, and was in full support of its cause. We presented our design, prototype, bacteria test results from the prototype, and our business model at the end of the term, and tied for the grand prize. This summer several prototypes have been taken down to Guatemala for testing in the environment before being taken into limited production and allowed for the business model to be tested. This would normally be great news and an amazing reward for someone who is a big supporter of design for social causes, but I can’t help thinking about the toxic industry and market potential i’ve helped introduce to this remote region of Guatemala. Was our design a success? Was our design responsible? Only we, the designers and answer that question. Perhaps this is not a question of responsibility, but a question of morality.


heating water system

I found something interesting….

Clever recycling – solar hot water system made from beer bottles

International blogging sites are all abuzz with this Chinese farmer’s design of this homemade solar hot water system made from beer bottles.

“I invented this for my mother. I wanted her to shower comfortably,” says Ma Yanjun, of Qiqiao village, Shaanxi province, according toAnanova.

Solar hot water from bottles

His design is constructed from 66 beer bottles attached to a board. The bottles are interconnected with hosepipes to allow water to flow through them. When left in the sun, the water in the bottles will warm up to a sufficient temperature for showering. The system is reported to provide enough water for a family of three to enjoy hot showers.

- Jessica

A Single Drop

Through my research I found this organization called “A Single Drop” that offer simple creative solutions to promote social action specifically around water issues.

A Single Drop


Enjoy, Ramon

hitting close to home

About halfway through our research in Santiago, working in the campamentos, I realized something. While our research subject seemed so far removed from our daily reality, in a different country and a different language, it was not quite as foreign to me as I may have thought.
My sister recently moved to Hilo, Hawaii where she has been building a house with her partner. The catch? The house is located down a 3 mile dirt road, about a 45 minute drive from any semblance of civilization. Like the families I had been meeting with all week, she too has no running water, no electricity and no gas. Although this is by choice and not necessity, she encounters many of the same challenges as the families in the campamentos.
Luckily, the rainfall in Hawaii provides a constant, free water source, but harnessing it is another problem altogether. She collects water on her roof to provide pressure for a shower, uses a composting toilet system that is about as private as those we saw in Santiago and has to purchase drinking water via trips into town.
I will keep you updated on her new lifestyle and continue exploring the differences, similarities and creative solutions she encounters along the way!


Dinner with Rafael’s Family 09-09-09

Thank You Rafael and your beautiful family for opening your home and sharing delicious bbq! It was and incredible night!


Playing to Pump Water

I researched this product last year and found it to be pretty interesting, and maybe we can borrow some ideas for our projects.

Play Pump

This is a cool device that uses the energy of kids to pump, and store water. You can learn more about it at the PlayPump website.

Quick Explanation- By spinning the merry-go-round kids draw water up from deep underground into a storage tank above ground. Then with a simple tap water can be access easily.

The idea reminds me of some of the inventions the families implemented to create running water, by elevating buckets overhead and using gravity to pull the water down. I think its an interesting idea to make a difficult task -pumping water- into something fun, so it doesn’t seem like work.

On the “Business Side”, I think we can also learn a bit from the way PlayPump went from concept to implementation- and how they paired their product with businesses and sponsors. The PlayPump has added benefits to the communities that receive the pump (advertising space on the tank, etc..) It seems like they have a multi-tiered system of implementation, perhaps we can use the same type organization.


Play Pump2