Clean, safe & affordable water

It’s a shocking statistic that some two billion people on the planet do not have access to clean water.

A global problem

Woman collecting water from a Sunlight water centre

In the developing world, water-borne diseases such as jaundice, typhoid and cholera are widespread. In fact, child mortality is directly related to diarrhoea which, in India alone, accounts for around 400,000 deaths every year.

So Unilever set about working with technology partners, government bodies, and scientific and public health institutions to develop an effective and affordable answer.

An accessible solution

Launched in India in 2005, PureIt products are the only in-home purifiers to provide water that’s ‘as safe as boiled’ without the need for cooking gas, electricity or a pressurised supply. One unit costs €32 to buy and around half a euro cent per litre to run, making it much more affordable than alternatives.

During 2008, the product was rolled out to 23 states in India, and reached all 28 by early 2009. It is now bringing safe drinking water to more than five million people in a million households.

Breakthrough technology

PureIt is a feat of engineering innovation developed through the combined efforts of over a hundred qualified scientists at Unilever research labs in India and the UK.

In a four-stage process, microfibre mesh first removes visible dirt. The water then flows through a compact carbon trap which removes harmful parasites and pesticide impurities. The Germkill™ processor uses sustained release chlorine technology to target and kill viruses and bacteria. Finally a polisher removes further impurities and residual chlorine to give great tasting water that’s odourless and visibly clear.

The unique battery life indicator alerts consumers when to replace the battery kit and an auto switch-off feature provides an additional assurance of safety by stopping the flow of water when the indicator turns red.

Brought to life through partnership

Whilst developing the technology was a difficult but realistic challenge for Unilever scientists, creating the actual product needed experience and expertise beyond our capabilities. We sought a partner who could bring what we couldn’t – knowledge of aesthetics in the design and manufacture of the units.

This was a really successful partnership, not least because the nature of the collaboration made it hugely motivating for all to seek solutions to various issues encountered along the way.

Proof of performance

PureIt quickly proved its credentials within the scientific, medical and public health community, and convinced doctors of its efficacy. Its performance has been verified and endorsed by leading institutions such as the Sundaram Medical Foundation, the Indian Public Health Association and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. It also meets the criteria of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the toughest regulatory body in the US.

What’s more, the product has received numerous awards including the 2008 UK Trade and Investment India Business Award for innovation, the UNESCO Water Digest Water Award 2008/09 for the best domestic non-electrical purifier, and the 2008 Golden Peacock Product/Service Innovation Award.

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