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February 17, 2006 - The World Health Organization estimates that 4,500 children die each day from lack of access to clean drinking water. Further, 1.2 billion people lack access to safe drinking water. The United Nations has declared 2005 to 2015 as the “Water for Life Decade.”

The crisis and the challenge ahead will bring together representatives from around the world in Grand Rapids February 27 for an international meeting -- Water Conference: Thirsting to Serve 2006. The conference will focus on solutions currently being used to address the potable water crisis worldwide and to discuss developing sustainable solutions. The conference will be held in the Performing Arts Center on the campus of Aquinas College. The day-long conference on Monday, February 27, 2006 begins with registration at 8 a.m. and a welcome at 9 a.m. Cost is $50 for each participant. A limited amount of space is being made to students, free of charge. Reservations can be made through ""
Bruce Gordon, an expert in Household Water Treatment Systems with the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, will address participants in a pre-conference session Sunday evening, February 26.

The conference was the idea of Rockford (Michigan) residents Jim and Susan Bodenner, members of the Rockford Rotary and Rotary International District 6290, which is leading the effort to bring potable water to residents of the Dominican Republic.

“Addressing the world community’s lack of clean water requires a world response,” Jim Bodenner says. “Collaboration is the solution to helping solve the world water crisis.”

Bodenner spoke twice to a Water Panel of the United Nations, once in November 2005 and again in February 2006, about the water crisis and the proposed solutions, including the BioSand Water Filter Project launched by Rotary District 6290 in the Dominican Republic. The BioSand Water Filter (“BSF”), designed and patented by Dr. David Manz of Calgary, Canada, is a fairly simple water purification system that can filter polluted water, making it safe to drink. It removes at least 85 percent of bacteria and 100 percent of active parasites. While the original design of the filter utilizes cement, which is too heavy and cumbersome, an alternate design uses a plastic shell which will be produced by Cascade Engineering of Grand Rapids. The plastic shells, once manufactured here, can be easily shipped to the underdeveloped countries where they will be used. Each filter will cost approximately $50.

At the conference, Bodenner is expected to announce details about the formation of a non-profit company - the Safe Water Institute (SWI) – to which Manz has granted the exclusive worldwide license to manufacture and distribute the BSF for humanitarian purposes.

The collaboration between Cascade Engineering, Aquinas College and International Aid will ensure the manufacture and distribution of the filters as well as to provide training to implement the technology in a sustainable manner. The SWI and its collaborators are developing a business model to assemble and distribute the BSF through the micro-business entrepreneurs in the countries where the systems will be used. Aquinas College will take a leadership role in training and educating people in the use of the technology and in establishing micro-businesses in those developing countries and International Aid (Spring Lake, Michigan) will handle the worldwide distribution of the filters.

Clean water worldwide has been identified as one of the top projects for Rotary International as well as the United Nations.