Waterborne illnesses, including typhoid and cholera, are the leading cause of death in the world, taking the lives of more than 3 million people each year. Having access to clean water is a luxury that many of us take for granted. However, there are millions living in nations with no filtration systems in place. Red Bull TV’s new feature length documentary presents Waves for Water, a nonprofit that has a simple, $50 solution. The organization aims to get clean water to everyone in the world who needs it turning tourists into activists. Waves for Water “couriers,” – backpackers, surfers, and hikers – voluntarily deliver the filters to the areas they’re visiting.

Launched on March 22 on Red Bull TV for World Water Day the 52-minute Waves For Water documentary features personal, emotional interviews from the founder Jon Rose, actors Rosario Dawson and Patricia Arquette, and others close to him, detailing the surprising events that led the professional athlete to become a next generation humanitarian, as well as how his grass roots organization has grown from a one-off surf trip in Sumatra to an international NGO with brand partners like Hurley, Neymar Jr, Paypal, BMW and more. A powerful documentary moves viewers to act, proving that change can be simple and impactful – one water filter at a time.

Imagine millions of travelers doing this. Now, we’re making waves.

The story

In 2009, Jon Rose joined his friends’ surf trip in Indonesia. He packed 10 filters in his bag to distribute in Bali as a small act of charity. He was aboard a boat off the coast of Sumatra when he felt a slight shake. A 7.6-magnitude earthquake rocked West Sumatra, leaving more than 1,000 dead and 100,000 homeless. Rose flew to the disaster area, Padang, in the early hours after the tragedy. He got water filters into the hands of rescue workers to help the injured victims in need of clean water. That crucial moment changed Jon’s life and in turn, the lives of others who would soon have access to safe drinking water. The eye-opening experience solidified the need for a non-profit organization aimed to bring clean water solutions to impoverished countries around the world.

So far, Waves for Water has initiated 105 programs in over 27 countries, consisting of water filtration systems, wells and rainwater harvesting systems, with an estimated 7,000,000 people impacted. Over the last seven years, 150,000 of these filters have made their way to two dozen countries around the world. The NGO was also the first non-profit to team up with a U.S. Military battalion, in an active war zone, to help people in need along the Kunar River in Afghanistan.

It wasn’t supposed to be a job, just a fun side project to help some of the areas around the world we liked to surf. But with tragedy striking Sumatra, I went into Padang to put the filters into the hands of those who were most in need of clean water. That action was a polarizing moment in my life and became the true start of Waves For Water.

Waves for WaterWaves for Water

How it works

Waves for Water’s 0.1-micron hollow membrane filters remove 99.9% of the disease-causing bacteria and protozoa from water sources. Once attached, each filter can provide 100 people with clean drinking water for at least five years. These  filtration systems are portable, easy to use, easy to pack, and effective. In every demonstration, Rose and his team turn dirty copper-colored water clear and, in good faith, try it first.

You’ve got scientists that have done the work in creating the technology but they don’t know who needs it or how to get it there and you have people who need it but don’t know it exists. We’ve become the bridge between those two things.

Waves 4 Water has teamed up with surf company Hurley International to develop Courier Program, a DIY (Do-It-Yourself) distribution network of travelers who carry water filters with them in their luggage. This practice eliminates the distribution challenges faced by philanthropic aid programs.

Waves for WaterWaves for Water

Volunteers pack a few filters in their suitcases and either connect with local non-profits in that area or personally travel to villages to set them up themselves. Creating these types of filtration systems are simple. Generally all they need are paint buckets (easily found in any country), a knife to make a hole, spigots and ceramic-drip water filters that can be purchased for $25 each or the preferred community filter at $50.

The organization has also teamed up with large non-profits and government agencies to provide large-scale solutions to areas in need. In addition to their primary focus around clean water, they coordinate and execute natural disaster relief efforts around the world. Over the past four years, nonprofit has responded to almost every major global disaster, earthquake or tsunami.

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