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Meet the Two Engineers Innovating How We Think About Water

11/29/2016 09:46 pm ET

Engineers are usually found writing new lines of code, working with sensors or motors, or spending countless of hours building the next cool gadget we all need in our lives. Like most things, there are always exceptions: meet Matt and Adrian, two social entrepreneurs that created a new water filter.

They recently posed a question to a group of interviewees: "Do you ever wonder about what's in your water?"

"I almost never wonder. I rely on the good old government to warn us if something's wrong. We've always had good water here."

These are a handful of answers from their interviewees, and they represent the consensus among most in the U.S. It's reminiscent of the food industry not too long ago, before movies like Supersize Me and Food, Inc. Now, there's a movement to eat better food, and today, Everwaters is the movement to drink better water.

It started when they first traveled to Kenya for two months right after graduating from college. They wanted to learn about the different issues families face getting clean water to drink. After returning home, the news of the Flint, Michigan Water Crisis broke, but the problem isn't local to Flint.

CNN estimates that nearly 18 million people drink water contaminated with lead. This past September, Missouri American Water issued a boil water advisory, meaning the water coming out of the tap was likely contaminated with bacteria. A problem they thought to be only outside of the U.S. was now in their backyard.

They created a water filter that they believe will help solve this problem, and it's now on Kickstarter. They're also taking active steps to bring their water filters to communities in East Africa by working with local businesses on the ground.

Their water filter has two components: a ceramic outer shell designed to shut out 99.9999% of bacteria and coconut-based carbon specially modified to also reduce lead in drinking water. Compared to typical water filter pitchers like Brita, Everwaters filters over 15 times the number of contaminants and lasts 10 times as long. They weren't kidding when they said they wanted to give people the best water.

Their philosophy: Give people the means to take charge of their water.

As part of the growing cohort of social entrepreneurs, I asked them how their ideas change the way we think about water:

1. It's no longer someone else's problem.

We don't realize it, but how to get clean water in our homes was one of the inventions that enabled the United States to prosper in the 20th century. In 1908, Dr. John L. Leal conceived of the process to treat water with chlorine. It was so effective at eliminating diseases like cholera and typhoid that within a few years, water treatment plants across the world adopted the practice.

Today, however, there are other contaminants besides germs to worry about in water. Lead is just one that's gotten a lot of attention recently, and for good reason. All of the pipes that have been installed before 1980 are too expensive for the government to simply replace, and even figuring out whether or not lead is an issue in your home can take weeks.

There are also many contaminants that are classified as "emerging" contaminants in water, meaning that they are known possibly to occur in the drinking water supply, but their effects are not known. Pharmaceuticals are one of these emerging contaminants, or pain killers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen.

2. The future is in plant-based technology.

Water is a massive industry. Almost everything we do requires it. When it comes to drinking water in the home, all of our water filters use technology inspired by nature. Whereas some filters use plastic resin in addition to carbon to reduce certain contaminants, Everwaters' natural ceramic and carbon to reduce the same contaminants and more.

We don't stop here. We're motivated to pioneer new plant-based water treatment technologies that we plan to release into the market in the future. Our most exciting project involves using a protein found within the moringa seed to naturally clean water. The applications of the technology is widespread from gardening to medical applications.

We're not the only ones excited because we got to pitch this technology on CNBC's Make Me a Millionaire Inventor.

3. The problem and their solution is global.

The United States lead water crisis woke us up to water issues at home, but we didn't lose our original motivation to provide a solution in Kenya. There, we are piloting our filter with a local business, and enable them to sell our products at a profit to their customers, enabling more homes to pay the product and use it over time.

According to the World Health Organization, nearly 1.8 billion people have access to water that be contaminated and unsafe to drink. The most common issue worldwide - including here at home - is either degrading water infrastructure or the lack thereof. Our filter is designed for it because it requires no power and can handle water that's microbiologically unsafe, unlike most filters you know.

For us, it boils down to this: In age of drone delivery, smart cars, and artificial intelligence, it should be possible to get a clean cup of water wherever you live. We were actually both tap water drinkers before starting Everwaters, but after all we've learned, given how simple it is to take care of with our product, we prioritize the quality of the water we drink.

Matt and Adrian's product is on Kickstarter now until December 13th. They're raising $25,000 to bring the product to market in the U.S. If you want an Everwaters filter, you can pre-order here!

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