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Relief: It's more than just water

Jan. 29, 2010

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Jed Dean | Photo Editor
Jim Newman shows the before and after products of a new water filtration system, "Just Water," Thursday, in the Cashion Academic Center.

By Bethany Moore
Staff writer

Most Baylor students shudder at the thought of drinking the murky river water of the Brazos. However, for Dr. Stephen Bradley's social entrepreneurship and economic development class, drinking the river water became a way to bring clean water to those in need.

This demonstration was part of a presentation from the Texas Baptist Men's Water Ministry, called Just Water, to test the effects of a new powerful purification system.

Ron Mathis, the chairman of Just Water, brought in a bucket full of water from the Brazos, dropped in dog feces he collected from campus, and allowed the mixture to flow through the system as he explained Just Water's mission to Bradley's class on Thursday.

"In the short period of time I'm going to be speaking to you right now, more than 1,000 babies will die due to bad water," Mathis said. "That's what I'm passionate about."

This purification system is different from others, Mathis explained, because it is simple, effective and most importantly, cheap.

"If I were to go and put a great system in with all the odd bells and whistles, the first time it hiccups they would turn it off and never use it again," Mathis said. "So when we come up with a humanitarian product it has to be simple. So simple an Aggie could do it."

Seven years ago Mathis was working as a designer of hydrate water systems for pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and laboratories, when he had a calling from God to use his knowledge for humanitarian efforts.

"God said, no more of the real world, it's time to go into the humanitarian world," Mathis said.

Since then, Mathis has been working with Just Water to develop more products for water sustainability.

After marketing this purification system to more than 57 underdeveloped countries, Mathis has many countries that are currently using the product and many governments interested in the filter. However, the problem is affordability. The filters are only $10; yet, those within more impoverished villages still cannot afford them. Many churches and individual donations have sustained the filters thus far, but Mathis wants to find a way to help these villages sustain themselves.

After hearing about Just Water, Bradley decided to challenge his students to come up with an economic plan for the villagers to purchase the filters and invited Mathis to present the product. This semester's class is the first to be involved with the project.

"This is a great opportunity for the students to see a company that is already having a huge impact but is still on the ground level," Bradley said. "For our students to come in and help with marketing and production is a good learning opportunity."

At the end of the presentation, the students tried the newly purified Brazos water and were pleased with the product. One student said it tasted better than the fountain water.

San Antonio junior Casey Rinehart is excited about the challenge and chance to help market the product.

"I think the presentation went really well," Rinehart said. "It has a lot of potential all over the world, with lots of diverse markets from the poor and underdeveloped to mainstream America."

Just Water is also doing its part to aid the relief efforts in Haiti by sending 10,000 of the filters. Mathis said the filters have even caught the attention of actor Sean Penn, who called him last week so he could take some of the filters to Haiti when he went.

The system operates by putting two buckets on top of one another, drilling a hole and placing the filter in between them. The buyer needs to then simply pour the unpurified water in the top and allow it to filter through.

The water filter comes in many different designs. One of the filters features an on-the-go hydrating system similar to a Camelbak, which allows a hiker to drink water from any river or stream by putting it through the small filter. Another design is installed under a sink and delivers clean water straight through the faucet.