We Believe the World Deserves Clean Water.
We spend a lot of time dreaming about, designing and manufacturing faucets, but we know there are places around the world where the mere act of turning one on isn’t an option.
To help combat this startling reality, a handful of our associates (active members of our Innovation for Good committee) recently donated their engineering expertise to a water filtration project for Safe Water Kenya, part of the Michigan nonprofit Safe Water Team, Inc. Specifically, our team’s challenge was to improve upon the BioSand water filtration units the group deploys to villages throughout the East African country.
(To catch you up: BioSand technology mimics nature by using good bacteria to remove impurities in water. Water seeps through layers of sand and gravel where, along the way, the good bacteria remove more than 90 percent of the bad bacteria. Adding to the impressiveness of this natural filtration wonder is the fact that essentially no maintenance is required. We know…It’s almost too good to be true.)
The problem was the filter’s inconsistent flow rate from one installation to another. Having a consistent water flow is integral to the filter’s success; if the water flow is too high, the filter can’t remove as much product, but if it’s too low, then users are frustrated with the small amount of clean water they’re getting.
We were tasked with designing a metered outlet restrictor on the filter to provide a steady water flow. After a handful of design changes and prototypes, we came up with a solution that resulted in a very low-cost implementation for the Safe Water team.
“That’s part of the beauty of what the Kohler team did; they understood how critical cost was,” said Don Arnold, who works with Safe Water Kenya. “I can’t imagine there being a more effective and less expensive solution than what they gave us.”
So why us in the first place? Well, we regulate the flow of water every day while creating our products. Though our expertise in the world of water was seen as valuable for this type of project, members of our team will quickly admit that it stretched their ways of thinking.
“I’ve done some projects that regulate the flow of water, but never in this way. It really helps you learn,” said Steve Aykens, Staff Engineer and core team member of the filtration project.
Up next, the Safe Water team will be developing prototypes and conducting field tests in Kenya, testing the device in a nearby city’s lab to determine the design’s efficacy.
No, this wasn’t the plumbing we’re used to, but we believe it’s good to get outside of our comfort zones every now and then. And for this type of work? That choice was crystal clear.
Posted on 27 August, 2014