A Water Project Changing People’s Lives

Clorox puts its bleach to better use than just getting out stains: purifying water for rural communities in Peru.

(Photo: Courtesy Clorox)

Oct 8, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Liz Lopez has been a contributor to English and Spanish outlets in Texas since the mid-1990s. She writes about community events and the arts.

At this year’s South by Southwest Eco conference in Austin, Texas, attendees got a chance to check out Clorox’s Safe Water Project, an initiative to purify drinking water in rural communities. What does Clorox have to do with clean drinking water? Little-known fact: Bleach can be used to purify water.

For several generations, people have thought of the product only in terms of laundering and sanitizing items. Consumers are warned to be careful when using bleach, and in some instances they have been injured when not using it properly.

But representatives at Clorox are using bleach for a nobler cause than just stain removal, creating a pilot program in Peru over the last two years that now has in place three purified drinking water locations in the country’s rural communities.

With its recent success in Peru, the company is planning to expand the project, according to Alexis Limberakis, Clorox’s director of environmental sustainability. Over the next five years, the Safe Water Project will provide 400,000 liters of safe drinking water daily to 25,000 Peruvians.

How does it work? Workers use small, measured amounts of bleach to purify dirty water, saving lives in communities where clean water is hard to come by. Attendees at SXSW Eco got a firsthand look at how the process works. In the Clorox Safe Water Project Lounge, those who came in could rehydrate at the Fill Station—a water fountain activated via Twitter—and could view the bright-blue bleach dispenser model with the labels “Proyecto Aguasegura” (Safe Water Project) and “Dispensador de Lejía” (cleaning product dispenser) and instructions in Spanish. The dispensers provide a low-cost and sustainable solution for water treatment and can be installed in communities next to communal water tanks/areas.

The project also provides multitiered educational and training sessions to municipal authorities and citizens to encourage participation and use of the project’s resources. “We also teach them to keep the containers clean and train them to use the safe water,” Limberakis said. “It is a pretty comprehensive health and hygiene program, with a focus on intestinal health.”

Katie Keil, associate marketing director at Clorox, said neighboring villagers are noticing the difference in the communities with the purified water and want to be involved. “When in Peru recently, we learned other villages are seeing and hearing the impact this is having on the children,” she said.

So far, the results of the project in Peru are very positive. “Sixty percent [of households in the communities] are participating and very engaged and want to continue indefinitely,” Limberakis said.

Overall, Keil said the experience at SXSW Eco had been a positive one. “It has been neat to see how people have been engaged and pleasantly surprised. They want to know more,” she said.

To learn more about the project, visit Clorox’s Safe Water Project page.