Plastics Help Deliver Clean Water When Disaster Strikes

Hurricane Katrina

Natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes often destroy sources of clean drinking water.  An innovative solution — in the form of a plastic pouch — provides lifesaving relief to survivors of these disasters.

The HydroPackTM is a thin, 12 ounce plastic pouch that contains an electrolyte and nutrient-rich powder.  When dropped into contaminated water, the pouch’s plastic membranes absorb water while filtering out contaminants.  The water source can be waste water, flood water, a mud puddle, a polluted stream — even brackish water.  Disaster victims simply punch a straw through the pouch and drink.

The filtration process, which scientists call Forward Osmosis, relies on membranes made of cellulose acetate, a type of plastic often found in clothing, home furnishings, diapers and even felt tip pens.  The process is so effective that the manufacturer says the filtered water surpasses U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards for water purifiers.

The HydroPack enables one helicopter to deliver the equivalent of 15 helicopters filled with bottled water.  The HydroPack has been used in some of the world’s worst disaster areas, including New Orleans, Haiti, and the flood-prone areas of Northern Kenya.