Bringing Safe Water to Remote Villages In Need

Photo: PATH

“Make the design so simple, it’s impossible to do wrong.” It’s a phrase infused into the design of the SE200, MSR Global Health’s first available product: a small, simple-to-use water treatment device. The MSR SE200 Community Chlorine Maker creates chlorine using only three ingredients: water, salt and electricity. They’re resources available in even the world’s most far flung places, where dirty water is a fact of life and chlorine, used for treating it, is hard, if not impossible to come by.

The SE200 makes chlorine with just the push of a button to create safe, drinkable water. MSR designed it in conjunction with PATH, a leader in the global health community, and today, the SE200 is being manufactured right here at MSR’s Seattle factory headquarters. With the three simple ingredients the device makes a chlorine solution that is able to treat up to 55 gallons (200 liters) of water per batch. For users, this means on-the-spot chlorine at wells, water trucks, and other common sources—eliminating supply chain issues and storage safety concerns with chlorine. But most importantly, it lets users take control of their supply of safe drinking water.

Photo: PATH

The Advent of MSR Global Health:

At first glance, the outdoor gear industry and global health markets may not seem that similar, but food water, shelter, and mobility are primary concerns for us all, whether scaling mountains in the Cascades or living day to day in a remote village in Kenya. We created the MSR Global Health Division with the intent to utilize MSR’s incredible people and technologies, and our manufacturing expertise to make an authentic and lasting difference in the world. At MSR, we believe our innovations can help empower people living in low resource countries who need greater access to basic human needs—like safe water. We know the same trusted quality and reliable experience we provide our Outdoor and Military customers can help serve Global Health advocates and end users around the world.

MSR Global Health is working with community members who earn less than $5 per day and live in low-income economies in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. In the design and release of the  SE200, we’ve been listening, learning, and carrying out technical research in close partnership with non-profit organizations and the philanthropic community. MSR has worked closely with PATH, our co-development partner, along with dozens of others who have provided field knowledge and expertise about the needs of people living on $1 to $5 per day. This work has included countless surveys, focus groups, and field trials in over a dozen countries. World Vision, a nonprofit organization focused on children, is empowering their field teams to implement and collect data on the first 150 of these devices off the production line.

Photo: PATH

The SE200 Comes to Life:

The SE200TM Community Chlorine Maker is the first MSR Global Health product. In just five minutes, the soup-can sized device produces enough disinfecting solution to make 55 gallons (200 liters) of water safe to drink. Requiring just salt and an electricity source such as a rechargeable car battery, the SE200 can treat over 10,000 gallons of water on a single car battery charge[1]. This enables community leaders, schools, and entrepreneurs to treat water for their community of 50 to 200 people.

Photo: PATH

During our early brainstorm sessions with PATH where we conceptualized the device’s form, batch size, and use modes in MSR’s design lab, our goal was always to keep the device as simple to use as possible. In addition, from day one, it was designed for people living in communities with little access to resources. Everything from its color, sounds, lights, and circuit board to the one-page pictographic instruction manual, has evolved from field feedback.

Lessons from the Field:

As with any prototype, when we first took the SE200 into the field  with PATH, we learned some important (and entertaining) lessons. For instance, the very first iteration was much smaller, making a batch of chlorine to treat only 5 gallons (20 liters) of water. We soon realized how time-consuming it would be to make enough batches to meet morning water demands of families. We recognized the common morning and afternoon rushes, when most families buy or collect water and when water treatment operators needed to be able to treat large amounts of water fast.

And then there was the color: In a series of focus groups, led by PATH, our design team was continually asked why our sleek, black, prototype was “the color of death.” A color change was soon underway and blue became the final color, as requested by community members.

Now that it’s complete, at MSR we’re proud of this effort and we feel privileged to work with our incredible partners on these global projects. The SE200 Chlorine Maker is just the beginning for MSR Global Health. Stay tuned as this new exciting division continues to create meaningful innovations that solve the real-life challenges that unite us all.


About the author: LauraMcLaughlin-headshotLaura McLaughlin is the Director of MSR Global Health. She has worked with the MSR team to harness our existing passion and knowledge about water science, design, and manufacturing for products that serve people who live in low-resource communities. Laura is surrounded by extreme talent on the MSR team. She comes to MSR after a market transition career in energy efficient lighting, and education in environmental engineering and environmental health from the University of Washington.

[1] This figure assumes and 80 Amp-hour car battery and 50% battery efficiency.

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