Suitcase-sized filtration device provides safe drinking water in Haiti

Jun 17 2011 - 11:58am

Nimbus Water Systems has been purifying water since 1968, but with its latest product lines the company is moving beyond kitchens and cafes to provide safe drinking water for residents of disaster-stricken Haiti.

The company has designed a portable water-filtration system that can be easily toted to remote parts of the world to take up to 2,500 gallons per day of dirty water from a stream, a well or a tank and turn it into water that is safe to drink.

The system runs on solar power and comes in a rolling suitcase that can be checked as luggage onto commercial airplanes, carried off on a moment's notice in response to a natural disaster or other emergency.

Originally designed for military use, the portable ultra-filtration system hit the market last year.

Anthony Capone, Nimbus Water Systems' CEO, said there are only 100 or so in use so far, mostly in Haiti, but he expects momentum to pick up quickly. Capone predicts demand for the new lines will double the business within a couple of years.

Nimbus has sold most of its portable units through a partnership with LifeGivingForce, a San Francisco-based organization that operates for-profit and nonprofit arms and has been working in Haiti to provide emergency water aid in the wake of the January 2010 earthquake and also to build long-term water infrastructure.

Jamieson Slough, a former Navy fighter pilot who oversees international business development for LifeGivingForce, said Nimbus suitcase units, which start at $4,000-$5,000, have had a "tremendous effect" on the work of several aid organizations

Nimbus equipment also has helped the organization build awareness of its brand. LifeGivingForce private-labels the filtration equipment in the field, and Slough said it has worked well since its deployment. "I have not swapped out any systems as yet," he said.

The suitcase filtration units were spotlighted last year in a YouTube video about LifeGivingForce featuring actress Sharon Stone.

In another, Tory Belleci of television's "Mythbusters" documents a trip to Haiti to deliver a Nimbus filtration unit with Slough.

"This is fresh, clean water," Belleci says in the video. "We took it from this murky reservoir behind me, and now it's drinkable. Pretty incredible."

Capone said he has long wanted to find a way to use Nimbus technology to provide safe drinking water to developing countries.

Development of the portable systems was well under way in January 2010 when Haiti was hit by a devastating earthquake, but "Haiti made us move a lot faster," he said. He hopes to eventually develop smaller portable units for use with home disaster-preparedness kits.

Recently, the company finished six months of testing on a new portable system that can remove the salt from seawater using a reverse-osmosis purification method. Capone said the new product line can produce up to 500 gallons of desalinated water per day and could be useful for emergencies in coastal areas.

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,


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