More than 1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water and approximately 2.5 billion don’t have adequate sanitation, making billions vulnerable to disease and other development challenges.

During 2014 World Water Week, we’re celebrating the companies that are working to change that. These four innovations are featured in the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition's Innovations in Smart Power report

Greif Inc.

On average, 30,000 people—90 percent under age five—die each week from preventable diseases caused by dirty water. Women in developing countries may walk 3.5 miles every day to transport water home, often in heavy, contaminated containers.

Grief Inc.

Working closely with USAID, the Clinton Global Initiative, and Habitat for Humanity International, Greif engineers came up with a better solution: PackH2O™—a light-weight, self-sanitizing backpack that holds water and offers relief to women and children who often bear the burden of carrying water home. Over 100,000 backpacks have reached women, children, and men in more than 25 countries through this unique partnership.

The Water Council

The UN Global Compact Cities Programme, which recognizes cities for urban expertise, selected Milwaukee in 2009 to share its knowledge in water technology with the rest of the world.

The Water Council

The Water Council has grown into a global hub for freshwater economic development and education, opening the Global Water Center in 2013 to nurture water-related startups and provide a research space for universities and the establishment of water-related companies. Over the last year, the Council has hosted groups from nearly 20 countries including China, Jordan, Kenya, Morocco, and South Africa interested in learning more about Milwaukee’s water technology cluster.


An estimated 1.7 million children die each year from preventable diarrheal diseases caused by poor sanitation. The problem is particularly acute in slums, where over 1 billion people live.


Massachusetts startup company Sanergy designed a low-cost, high-quality sanitation solution called Fresh Life Toilets to turn waste into energy. Using a USAID Development Innovations Venture grant, Sanergy created a network of 60 low-cost latrines run by local entrepreneurs to collect waste, convert it into organic fertilizer, and sell it to local farmers in Kenya. As of June 2014, 425 of Sanergy’s Fresh Life Toilets are now operated by 215 local entrepreneurs and having real results with more than 2,500 metric tons of waste removed from the Mukuru slum in Nairobi, Kenya.


Nearly 800 million people lack access to safe drinking water and only 1 percent of the world’s water is available to drink. In developing countries, approximately 1.4 million children die each year as a result of consuming contaminated drinking water.


Coca-Cola has joined forces with German Company SolarKIOSK to pilot EKOCENTERs in 2014 in select markets across the developing world, utilizing their innovative new design to bring power and water to underserved communities. An EKOCENTER is a modular community market in the shape of a container that is run by a local woman entrepreneur. It provides safe water, solar power and Internet access—alongside a variety of other services. A critical component of the EKOCENTER is a water purification device that can make most dirty water sources drinkable. In 2013/2014 Coca-Cola partnered with IDB to pilot and test the water purification technology in Paraguay and elsewhere with a goal to deliver approximately 500 million liters of safe drinking water to rural and developing communities through EKOCENTERs by 2015. 

Read an op-ed from Liz Schrayer, president and CEO of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition on how American businesses and NGOs are partnering with the federal government to discover, test and scale innovative solutions to solve some of the world’s toughest challenges.