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Designed collaboratively by a multi-national team of students from Pratt Institute in New York (myself), EAPD school of design in San Juan, Puerto Rico (Katherine Cruz, Gabriel Mendez) and ESNE University in Madrid, Spain (Alejandra Alandete, Sofia Vigil). DropIt is a water quality assessment tool designed to help those living in areas with interrupted, inconsistent or limited access to fresh, potable drinking water.

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Hurricane Maria in September of 2017, our process of research and discovery started with in-situ field studies and observations by team members living in Puerto Rico. The team focused on the problem of water access and security that still plagues many areas within Puerto Rico, years after Maria.

After a natural or humanitarian disaster occurs, access to potable water can be threatened, forcing people to drink contaminated water and often suffer  severe consequences. Contamination can come from agriculture, industry, human waste, contact with sewage and many other sources. Many of these sources are exposed when flooding occurs, and can leech contaminates into drinking water sources. This makes access to clean water difficult in areas susceptible to flooding. Lack of access to clean water is also a persistent issue in much of the developing world, not just in areas vulnerable to extreme flood events.

Intended to address this chronic issue, DropIt assists users in obtaining a safe, reliable answer to the question that plagues these communities:

Is this water safe to drink?

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Reaching beyond simple assessment, DropIt is also intended to help the user understand if water is safe at the point of access, whether it needs to be filtered and treated, or whether the water is so severely contaminated that it cannot be consumed or used safely.

The DropIt device uses commonly available water testing technology combined with GPS tracking capability to aid in preventing contaminated water consumption by giving people who lack access to fresh water an easy, user-friendly way to check that the water they’re using is safe, regardless of where they are forced to acquire it from.

The handheld, highly portable, rugged and low-cost device combines measurements of pH, total dissolved solids, electrical conductivity, parts per million of particles in the water, a radioactivity meter and a GPS tracker to give a reliable indication of water quality at the site of water gathering. The GPS allows water quality to be tracked across a specific geographic area, allowing nonprofits and governments to utilize the data for public health purposes and to improve water quality in their locality.

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Though still in development by the team, sponsored and aided by Socent Labo of Spain, DropIt was selected as a finalist for the iF Design Award and featured in the iF World Design Guide. DropIt was also selected to appear as a featured design in the Bienal Iberoamericana Diseño 50 Talents design exhibition in 2021, exhibited publicly in Madrid, Spain.

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