September 16, 2014

WaterStep partners with GE FirstBuild Factory and the Student Water Initiative

780 million people lack access to clean water – that’s over double the size of the US population.

WaterStep, a Louisville-based nonprofit organization, fights to reduce and eliminate this number. Their website features this statistic, along with many others, that force us to think twice about our five minute shower.

Mark Hogg, Founder and CEO of WaterStep, believes that Louisville is uniquely positioned to solve the world’s water crisis. He envisions a permanent working relationship between WaterStep and the University of Louisville.

“Louisville is the water capitol of the world,” says Hogg. “For well over 100 years [Louisville] has been a leader in innovations that are applicable to safe water and used globally.”

He lists the Louisville Water Company, the Metro Sewer District, General Electric, U of L, and the Speed School of Engineering as great innovators in clean water.

Through a partnership with GE and the FirstBuild factory, WaterStep hopes to engage student innovators at U of L.

“We have not worked with U of L as an entity before,” says Hogg, “but with smaller groups at U of L.”

Last December a group of students travelled to the Philippines after the devastating 2013 typhoon. Equipped with WaterStep filtration systems, the students helped provide clean water and hygiene education.

The University of Louisville’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders works closely with WaterStep as well.

“The goal of our organization is to help communities in need, and we found an organization in Louisville, WaterStep, that has similar goals specific to water,” says Michael Blum, treasurer of U of L’s chapter of EWB.

Mallory Allgeier, president of Engineers Without Boarders, and three other EWB members travelled to Haiti with WaterStep and the American Water Works Association. WaterStep trained the volunteers in health and hygiene, Haitian culture and water purification.

“WaterStep is incredibly organized and efficient when it comes to planning an international service trip,” says Allgeier.

WaterStep looks to increase student involvement in solving the world’s clean water crisis.

Thad Druffel, a senior research engineer in solar energy conversion, has teamed up with Hogg to bring the Student Water Initiative to campus. They hosted an information session dinner at FirstBuild on September 3.

“I think Thad was amazed that he would get so many applications, and I’m excited we are going to go through those [together]” says Hogg.

The Student Water Initiative hopes to draw students from a variety of backgrounds – not just Speed School.

“Whether you’re working with an engineering mind, an economics brain, or you’re an entrepreneurial thinker or you’re interested in healthcare – all of these elements are important to work as a team to tackle this great problem,” says Hogg.

Students recall very positive experiences with WaterStep and express an interest in the clean water crisis.

“It’s absolutely worthwhile to work with WaterStep,” says Allgeier. “I’ve never worked with such selfless people who have such a clear vision and focused goal on how to make the world a better place, simply by giving people their most basic need.”

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