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The Future Of Clean Water Transport Takes Its Cues From Boxed Wine

The plastic Wat’bag pouch protects drinkable water from the bacteria and oil residue found in reused jerrycans.

The bag-in-a-box packaging for wine is brilliant, with two components that serve different, but complimentary functions in transporting and protecting the liquid. But never has never been more useful than in the hands of product designers Chloe Louisin and Nadine Nielsen. Their James Dyson Award winning Wat’Bag uses the same concept to distribute clean, drinkable water to people in developing countries.

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While studying at the Strate School of Design in Paris, Nielson and Louisin worked closely with Doctors Without Borders to research water distribution in Mugunga, the largest refugee camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They found that although there were several organizations working to make clean water accessible, refugees were still transporting the drinkable water in dirty jerrycans. Traces of oil, petrol, and bacteria in the cans were essentially reversing the efforts of the NGOs.

Rather than upend a system of water distribution that people had grown accustomed to–always an uphill battle for designers–Nielson and Louisin resolved to work within it. “We wanted to find a solution that would easily adapt to the existing elements and to the population’s habits,” the designers write in an email. “We also realized there were already jerrycans that were used all over the world, and we thought it would be a big waste to replace them.”

What resulted from the pair was a z-fold plastic pouch that can be inserted through the mouth of the jerrycan, and expand out as it fills up, protecting clean water from the interior of the jerrycan. A plastic ring around the nozzle holds the bag in place while it fills with water, and a cap seals off the nozzle for easy transportation. The pair found that folding the bag up like an accordion helped with ensuring the bag expanded to its full capacity inside the can. When the Wat’Bag’s not in use, it folds flat and is easily stackable–a key advantage for organizations transporting them in large quantities.

At this point, the Wat’Bag is still in its prototyping stage and has yet to be tested, though Doctors Without Borders has shown interest in overseeing its development. In the meantime, Nielson and Louisin will focus on raising the funds to produce it.

You can learn more about their project here.

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About the author

Meg Miller is an associate editor at Co.Design covering art, technology, and design.

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