Dirty drinking water is a major problem around the world, causing millions of cases of disease and death every year. About 663 million people (that's 1 out of every 10 people on Earth) lack access to safe water, and 2.4 billion people (1 out of every 3) lack access to a toilet.
Let's take a look at some inventions and innovations that are helping more people get sanitary water around the world, some of which are in use now and others that hope to be one day.
LifeStraw: The LifeStraw is what it sounds like – a straw-shaped filter that you can stick directly into water, purifying up to 1000 liters. The company now has a wider line of products, including drinking bottles and multi-user systems.
Slingshot: Invented by Dean Kamen and running on a Stirling engine or solar panel, the Slingshot has been used in tests in Africa to provide clean water to rural schools.
HIPPO Water Roller Project: The HIPPO Water Roller doesn't purify water, but it does provide better access to clean water. It's a simple rolling-drum system for carrying water long distances, holding 90 liters (about 24 gallons).
LifeSack: The LifeSack is truly ingenious, starting as a container for grain or other foods to be shipped wherever needed. But once it arrives at its destination, it can use solar power to purify water for drinking (and is easily worn as a backpack).
Drinkable Book: While not currently available, the Drinkable Book from WaterIsLife is an educational book on water hygiene, but you can rip the pages out and use them several times as water filters.
Hydrologic Ceramic Water Filters: Hydrologic was awarded a prize for ceramic water filters to be used in Cambodia, which remove 99.99% of bacteria in water.
The Water-Generating Billboard: More of an interesting idea than a real product, there's a water-generating billboard in Lima, Peru, that was created by engineers as an advertisement. It generates about 96 liters of water per day.
The Watercone: The Watercone is a very simple and easy to use desalination device which transforms salty or brackish water into potable water, using solar power and evaporation.
The Cycloclean: The Cycloclean is a bicycle-powered water purifier, using 4 filters and producing 6 liters of drinking water per minute (3 times the amount a single person needs per day).
Do you have a novel idea for a water purifier, or some other kind of fluid hydraulic system? Then check out the Products for Life Challenge, a $50,000 contest to come up with environmentally friendly and long-lasting fluidic products.