Jerry makes drinking water safe

One effect of a drought is a shortage of clean drinking water. In 2015, graduate Olivier de Gruijter developed a self-cleaning drinking water filter that fits on a jerry can. Soon over a hundred ‘Jerrys’ will be sent to refugee camps in Iraq and Gaza.

After graduating from the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering, Olivier De Gruijter continued to develop innovative water filters to provide a solution to the water problems of today. A research trip to India inspired him to come up with the idea of combining a jerry can with a water filter. “I was shocked at how many children suffer from dehydration or diarrhoea due to drinking contaminated water, often with a dreadful outcome,” says the IDE alumnus. “Diarrhoea is one of the leading causes of death in children under five years old here.”

Employees of Oxfam Novib and Cesvi will track the users’ experiences for a six month period.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), over 780 million people worldwide have no access to clean drinking water. As a result, one and a half million people die every year from water-related diseases.

De Gruijter received the Dutch James Dyson Award, for his design of the Jerry. The ensuing publicity brought him to the attention of the development organisations.

In its current form, the Jerry is an approximately 30-centimetre-long cylinder with a screw top that fits onto a jerry can. It is operated with a hand pump. The filter cleans itself by diverting 20% of the pumped water back through the filter. The filter membranes, which are also used for kidney dialysis, have pores of 0.01 micrometre and are impervious to bacteria and viruses.

Field testing started in June with 100 water filters in Iraq and 30 in Gaza. Employees of Oxfam Novib and Cesvi will track the users’ experiences for a six month period. De Gruijter hopes to use the results to optimise his design before mass production starts.

Now that the technology has more or less matured, attention is shifting to the business model, a market strategy and the question of how to get the Jerry to people who can barely pay for it. To this end, De Gruijter is cooperating with partner Eise van Maanen, who used to work as a financial consultant in the water sector.