Beyond The Hill

Team of Arizona State University students work to improve access to clean drinking water in underdeveloped countries

Courtesy of 33 Buckets

Five ASU students — Pankti Shah, Paul Strong, Varendra Silva, Mark Huerta and Connor Wiegand — have joined the project, 33 Buckets, in the hopes addressing water crises around the globe.

A project supported by students at Arizona State University is working in underdeveloped countries to improve their access to clean drinking water.

Five ASU students — Pankti Shah, Paul Strong, Varendra Silva, Mark Huerta and Connor Wiegand — have joined the project, 33 Buckets, in the hopes of making a positive impact and addressing water crises around the globe.

The 33 Buckets team installs small, customizable water filters in communities and areas with a lack of access to clean water, while also training community leaders to maintain the filters and sell the clean water that they produce, according to the group’s website. The filters and components can be swapped in and out based on a specific community’s water needs.

Enamul Hoque, the founder of the Rahima Hoque Girls’ College in rural Bangladesh, asked Richard Filley, the former Engineering Projects in Community Service director at ASU, to support the program, according to the official 33 Buckets website.

Filley said the project started in a class he was teaching, called EPICS, in which the students formed teams to tackle social challenges and issues.

He offered a project to a group of students, who went on to start 33 Buckets, which aired a commercial during the Super Bowl earlier this month.

“What we were doing at ASU in general is when we approach entrepreneurship it is often from a technical point of view,” he said. “And so part of the intriguing thing about 33 Buckets is that there’s been a strong technical component in the program.”

The problem in Bangladesh, Filley said, was not only that the water was not clean, but also that the people weren’t used to paying for water.

“Even if the water is a penny a gallon, it is still a cost. The team had to grapple with that and figure out how to get around that issue,” he said.

Filley also said he had a talk he gave called “7 Easy Steps to Change the World,” in which he encouraged all college students anywhere to realize that they can make a difference.

The 33 Buckets project has also spread to Peru and the Dominican Republic.

In Peru, for example, 1,500 people near the southeastern city of Cusco now get clean drinking water from a local business that employs techniques introduced by 33 Buckets, according to the Arizona State University website. Before that, the people living in that area had been relying on a water supply system with bacteria levels 2,000 times over the World Health Organization’s website, per the website.

In the Dominican Republic, according to the website, more than 1,000 people now have access to clean, affordable drinking water, thanks to 33 Buckets.

Filley said anything is possible with millennials and their knowledge of technology. Smartphones, for instance, have been creating change, as 70 percent of the world will have smartphone coverage by 2020, according to Digital Trends. And with that kind of technical power available, there are many opportunities for young people to help other people around the world, he said.

Kyle Squires, dean emeritus of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU, said the school is proud of the project and its cause.

Part of engineering, he said, is service to others: When a person has the analytical capacity, tools and techniques to solve global challenges, the person brings an obligation to the rest of the world, he added.

Projects like 33 Buckets showcase the university, displaying these student groups and extracurricular opportunities, Squires said.

“Most college students understand they’ve been blessed and they have this desire to give back,” he said. “Our job is to give them the opportunity to do so, and when we do that you have a project like 33 Buckets that hits the home run.”

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