“The prototype was sort of a Frankenstein solution,” admits Anish Mehta, director of process engineering at Coca-Cola. “We cobbled together filters from here, valves from there, membranes from elsewhere.”

Designing a water purification unit that fit the needs of diverse EKOCENTER communities was no walk in the park.

Fast-forward two years, to 2015, when EKOCENTER delivered more than 50 million liters of safe drinking water to people who need it most. With hard work and creativity, Mehta and his team went from a Frankenstein model to a robust, cost-effective system that changes lives.

Of course, they didn’t do it alone.

EKOCENTER Pentair

Partnerships have always been at the core of EKOCENTER’s model for sustainable social and economic development. The prototype was developed in house at Coca-Cola by creating a hybrid of off-the-shelf systems. The EKOCENTER team then reached out to Pentair, a leader in developing sustainable water solutions, to see if they could improve and manufacture it.

“EKOCENTER invited us to visit Coca-Cola’s headquarters for what they called an ‘Innovation Session,’” says Marybeth Thorsgaard, vice president of communications, Pentair.

EKOCENTER laid out its vision for social and economic growth, and Pentair, which has created sustainable systems for clean safe drinking water for millions in the developing world, jumped at the opportunity to get involved. Almost immediately, the teams’ engineering minds started to converge.

EKOCENTER Pentair

Still, the task of delivering clean water to remote communities affordably and reliably was a gargantuan challenge – and in many places, it continues to be one.

“There are huge disparities in terms of the quality and accessibility of the source water we are working with,” Mehta explains. “For example, sometimes we have a borehole, sometimes we don’t; sometimes we have power, sometimes we don’t.” EKOCENTER and Pentair had to design a system that was flexible enough to operate in difficult environments and disparate conditions. From the mouth of the Mekong Delta to the slopes of Kilamanjaro, the water purification units had to provide the highest quality output, in the most efficient way, for the lowest possible cost, every single time.

EKOCENTER Pentair

Together, the teams designed a system that combines a variety of Pentair’s water purification technologies including submicron prefilter, iron/manganese filtration, chlorine feed, carbon filtration and reverse osmosis technology. As a result, the water exceeds World Health Organization (WHO) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) water quality standards. A system can provide up to 10,000 liters of safe drinking water every day.

At the recent launch of the flagship EKOCENTER site in Rwanda, Coca-Cola Chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent and Pentair CEO Randall Hoga, joined His Excellency President Paul Kagame for a drink at the local “AMAZI MEZA” water purification kiosk. It was a testament to what is possible when the right partners, technologies, and approaches converge in a sustainable economic model.

From modest, Frankenstein-like beginnings – Coca-Cola, Pentair, and partners are joining forces to refresh the world’s thirst. With dedication, creativity, and the power of partnerships, the sky is the limit in terms of the possibilities for future innovation.