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Drops to drink

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On October 18, Pure Foundation, the fundraising and philanthropy arm of Las Vegas-based water-purification company Multipure, posted a photo on its Facebook page showing a sign tied to an overpass — ostensibly somewhere in Puerto Rico — that read “ Playita Necesita Agua … SOS … Comida … SOS” (translation: “Playita needs water… HELP … Food … HELP.”) Pure Foundation’s comment on the photo was “The sign says it all … Our work isn’t over yet.”

The work that the foundation was referring to is donating mobile water purifiers to children and families in Puerto Rico. The company took five of its $10,000 Waterbox units to the country ravaged by Hurricane Maria. It gave three of them to Boys and Girls Clubs and two to private distributors in small towns.

“What’s unique — or what I think is so amazing — about this is, to make the water microbiologically safe — safe of things like e-coli, giardia, things that will get you sick right away — it doesn’t require UV light, chemicals, or wastewater, all things that are fairly common in our industry,” says Kenton Jones, Multipure’s vice president of marketing.

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The Waterbox was originally designed for the military to use in small battlefield deployments. “You can suck water out of an elephant footprint with this and make it drinkable,” Jones says. The unit resembles a large, hard-plastic toolbox holding a series of filters with hoses going into and coming out of each end.

“We have a lot of contacts in Puerto Rico, a lot of distribution there,” Jones says. “So, we knew we had a good opportunity to help, coupled with a product sitting on our shelf, ready for use. The challenge my boss gave me was, ‘We’ve got these; let’s see what we can do with them.’”

The company had previously built ties with Boys & Girls Clubs in Flint, Michigan, where the foundation covered the donation of several units during the lead-poisoning crisis of 2015. Jones identified five locations that had cisterns, or rain collection systems, where the water was of questionable quality. The Waterbox would work well for them, since the input hose can be put directly into a tank to produce 30 gallons of potable water per hour. With each Waterbox, the foundation also donated a solar panel so the unit can run on AC or DC power, a battery, or the sun.

As for the work remaining to be done, Jones says the company is planning to return to Puerto Rico to hand out five more systems before the end of the month.

Desert Companion welcomed Heidi Kyser as staff writer in January 2014. In 2018, she was promoted to senior writer and producer, working for both DC and State of Nevada. She produced KNPR’s first podcast, the Edward R. Murrow Regional Award-winning Native Nevada, in 2020. The following year, she returned her focus full-time to Desert Companion, becoming Deputy Editor, which meant she was next in line to take over when longtime editor Andrew Kiraly left in July 2022.