Water gives life but also takes it away – how water container design can reduce water-borne diseases

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This Wednesday, 22 March 2017, is World Water Day, which focuses on the central role of clean water and sanitation in sustainable development. In this blog, NRS Relief examines how the right water container can mean the difference between life and death to refugees.

world water day | jerry bucket

The elixir of life

Water is often referred to as the ‘elixir of life’ in recognition of the vital role it plays throughout our everyday lives. It is at the very core of sustainable development, critical to the survival of people and the planet. As a result, targets relating to the quality and sustainability of water resources worldwide are enshrined in Goal 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation) of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The necessity of clean water

Jerry Bucket World Water DayPoor sanitation and hygiene can often result in diarrhoeal diseases, particularly amongst children and the elderly. It has been estimated that one child dies from water-borne disease in each and every minute that passes. If diarrhea doesn’t kill a child directly, those who frequently suffering from diarrhea gradually lose their ability to absorb nutrients. The result is undernourishment, and this can then lead to a compromised immune system, heightening the chance of other sickness.

So, whether for drinking, washing, cooking or irrigation, a supply of clean water is a must. So when arriving in a camp, collecting water is obviously a top priority for refugees. All camps, whether managed by governmental, UN or NGO agencies, generally have a supply of clean water piped into it. However, refugees often arrive with few, if any possessions, and so resort to collecting this clean water with dirty containers. This negates the advantages of a clean water supply, and once again presents refugees with a significant risk of exposure to water-borne diseases.

Collaborating for success

Oxfam, the global NGO dedicated to ending poverty and helping people build stronger lives, saw at first-hand, in its global operations across 90 countries, how dirty water containers can have terrible consequences. As a result, it engaged NRS Relief as its manufacturing partner to develop and enhance its existing water bucket. The aim of the new design was to reduce as much as possible the introduction of water-borne disease when transporting water.

NRS Relief's Jerry Bucket | World Water Day

NRS Relief has long experience of core relief item development and manufacture, and offers a range of water containers such as its best-selling Pura Water Bucket and Aquatainer 10 L and 20 L Collapsible jerry cans. We worked hand in hand with Oxfam to understand their highest priority design considerations, based on feedback from their field workers and beneficiaries. This resulted in three new key design features:

  • A new tightly-fitting high density polyethylene (HDPE) lid that stays fixed on the bucket due to an improved rim lock design. This ensures that the water container is only used for drinking water rather than washing clothes, feeding livestock, and other unsuitable uses. It keep water in, and insects, germs and dirt out.
  • The lid has an integral clip-on cap that hygienically seals the bucket, so people do not need to improvise caps if the original lid is lost. The 100 mm hole minimizes spillage when filling from a pump, and also enable easy cleaning.
  • The bucket’s tap means that water can be safely distributed without putting dirty receptacles into the water.

Many of the bucket’s original features have been retained. Its 14 L capacity holds quite a lot of water, but not too much so that it is too heavy to carry. Its smooth, spike free bottom makes it easy to carry on the head, whilst its smooth curved edges prevent bacteria from accumulating on the inside.

Crucially, the buckets are highly practical. Their durable design is well-suited to the rigorous conditions that will be encountered in refugee camps, and their stackability allows cost-effective distribution in large numbers.

Ready to save lives

It’s not just a bucket and it’s not a jerry can, so it proudly carries the name of Jerry Bucket. It was officially unveiled by Oxfam and NRS Relief at twin launch events at last year’s AIDEX in Brussels, and is all set to improve the lives of beneficiaries, wherever they may be around the world. To find out more about this life-saving innovation, watch this video:

Happy World Water Day!

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