This blog post originally appeared on Free People’s blog and was reblogged with permission.

Some 3 in 10 people, or 2.1 billion worldwide, lack access to safe, readily available water at home, according to a new report by WHO and UNICEF. This is 28% of the world’s population. The reversal is one filter, one community, one village, one region at a time.

In honor of Mother Nature, and a growing commitment and need to give back, we’re here to share with you the story of Waves For Water, a 501c non-profit whose goal it is to educate and empower those in need of clean water. Waves For Water’s compact, sustainable filters allow for true magic to occur. Read on to learn more about them, and be sure to support the cause by purchasing a Waves For Water x FP tee, whose proceeds go toward a $50,000 donation that will allow W4W to purchase up to 1,400 new filters.

Tell us how Waves For Water came to be.

Jon Rose, our Founder, was aboard a boat off the coast of Sumatra during a surf trip in September 2009 when he felt a slight shake. He had no way of knowing at the time, but a 7.6 earthquake had destroyed the nearby city of Padang – with more than 1,000 lives lost and
 100,000 homeless – until he came to shore and saw the devastated city. Jon happened to be en route to Bali to deliver 10 water filters for what would have been the first Waves For Water project. But with tragedy striking Sumatra, he went into Padang to get water filters into the hands of rescue workers to help those who were most in need of access to clean water. That was really the start of Waves For Water.

Now, Waves For Water works on the front lines to provide access to clean water to communities in need around the world. In addition to our primary focus around clean water, we focus on disaster relief efforts globally, working directly with world leaders and strategic partners who take a no-nonsense attitude toward making global change. In the past 7 years, we have worked in 44 countries, with active programs in 23, and have responded to 33 disasters globally. With over 155 programs consisting of water filtration systems (150,000+ filters implemented), wells and rainwater harvesting systems we have impacted the lives of up to 3,750,000 people.

How much of the world’s water is currently not potable? How can you impact or even reverse that percentage?

Some 3 in 10 people worldwide, or 2.1 billion, lack access to safe, readily available water at home, according to a new report by WHO and UNICEF.

This is 28% of the world’s population.

The reversal is one filter, one community, one village, one region at a time. With the results we see with our program though, we are currently and will continue to have true impact.

Can you share with us just how your filters work?

The MVP Filtration system is the fastest, easiest and most cost-efficient way to get pure potable water to communities in need. At 0.1 micron absolute, it is impossible for any bacteria, protozoa or cysts to pass through the filter i.e. Cholera, Botulism, Typhoid, Amoebic Dysentery, E. coli, Giardia etc. The filters contain a high number of tiny ‘U’-shaped hollow fiber micro-tubes that trap contaminants while allowing decontaminated water to freely pass through at a high flow rate. One filter can provide up to 100 people with clean water for up to 5 years or one million gallons.

Shop We The Free Waves Tee and more

Waves For Water x FP. What does the collective mission look like?

Quincy Davis joined our team on the ground in Puerto Rico to help with a few implementations. On day one we went out to Utuado to visit a family farm to finish a Water Catchment system and implement 5 filters. We trained the family and a few neighbors on filter set up and use so they can be used in the Classroom/Community Center they are building for the local kids in the area. It was such a cool experience. 

Day two we did an implementation in the Canovanas Church Iglesia De Dios Emanuel. We met with 10 community leaders, implementing 3 filters each (30 total) with them after an in depth training and conversation with ur team on the benefits of using the filter. With these conversations we gained access to a school, a fire department and multiple neighborhoods that are putting together a leadership meetings to train and build the network. 

After the church we checked out a farm in Rio Grande, called Hacienda Rio Viejo, where we finished a cistern install for a catchment system and implemented a water filter for the farm. 

Tell us about the current situation in Puerto Rico…

The below response is from our Global Field Operations Director and Caribbean Hurricane Relief Program Director, Rob McQueen:

Our work in Puerto Rico ranges across the island. In some areas life has returned to a version of normal, primarily in the large city centers and mostly in San Juan. If you move outside of the San Juan area, a lot of small businesses have not been able to reopen or have closed forever. Central power is still just a dream as the sound of generators owns the usually quiet nights. There has been an increase in the demand for donated meals, which is a huge warning flag as the population on the island is still decreasing due to migration to the US. This highlights a major underlying issue that the island is nowhere near ready to support the most basic needs. The entire island is still under a boil water advisory due to bacterial contamination, and this become even more of a challenge when your ability to boil water is an issue (due to lack of fuel and/or electricity). What people fail to understand is that Maria not only decimated the existing infrastructure on the island, it highlighted just how broken both the infrastructure and government systems were prior to the storm. Maria exasperated already damning issues, so the thought process that after 6 months of relief efforts Puerto Rico would be ready is ridiculous. The economic crisis still looms large, especially since there’s just so much uncertainty surrounding the island… the real work is just getting started.

I’m interested in your courier program — what does becoming a member entail?

The Courier Program has one goal: empower the masses to help solve the world water crisis. How? Piggyback travelers that are already going to places with water needs, arm them with a water filter and the knowledge of how to implement it into a small community. Surf trip to Nicaragua? Bring some filters. Climbing trip to Thailand? Pack a few filters in your duffel. Going to India on business? The filters will fit right in your briefcase. The idea isn’t to get one person to offload 100 filters and call it a day. We want 100,000 travelers to each pack 1-10 filters and deliver them around the globe, creating a ripple effect of clean water and global connectivity.

The Courier Program has successfully implemented filtration systems in 90 countries, including Haiti, Indonesia, Chile, Pakistan, and Bali. Each of these examples are being used as success-models that can be applied worldwide.

Couriers — we want you to do what you love and help along the way. Purchase W4W filters and deliver to destinations all over the world. Feel connected. Travel with purpose. Do something that will change your life, and the lives of others.

Your greatest achievement so far?

Every project we do is successful because when it’s all said and done, people have access to clean water who didn’t before. So our success is truly measured by the action, and the only thing that changes from project to project is scale. If measured by scale within Puerto Rico, to date, we have implemented over 7,000 filters impacting over 195,000 people. We have also installed 120 cisterns across the island and 5 water catchment systems installed in farms and community gardens.

(This is in addition to our Outer Island Initiative where we have implemented +2,225 filters and 8 Cisterns in 40 communities across 7 islands.)

Your greatest challenge?

Our role throughout the response really shifted to meet the changing situation on the ground. Initially, we focused on getting our program out to as many people as possible regardless of restrictions and encouraging others to do the same. As the situation on the ground progressed we deliberately focused on trying to connect the right solution to the right need to have a better impact taking the role of a collaborative force. For example working with TESLA bring a remote water pump online and off the grid. We also worked heavily within our local networks to bypass shipping roadblocks and bring medical supplies from donors in the states to hospitals and clinics that needed them most. Currently we are shifting our energy to be part of the long-term recovery. We are taking a more formal role and have begun partnering with different organizations and entities where we can supplement their development efforts. For example, we are working with Departmento De La Comida, an organization working to rebuild local sustainable agriculture on the island. As they rebuild and seed these farms, we will build rain-catchment and water depots to support the farmer and his workers. In the end we believe in sticking to our core focus, clean water programs, and done right we can play a large role in rebuilding Puerto Rico.

What’s W4W’s biggest dream/goal?

Our goal is simple: to get clean water to every single person who needs it.

Be sure to download the Giving Assistant Button and to choose Waves For Water as your nonprofit of choice in your account settings to donate a portion of your cash back. If you believe everyone deserves clean water, support Waves for Water cause by purchasing a Waves For Water x FP tee. Happy shopping, happy giving.