The 33 Buckets story
33 Buckets began working in 2010 as a student project at Arizona State University. 7 years later, we've grown to provide safe water for a lifetime to thousands of people in 3 countries. We have recently established 33 Buckets Foundation, a partner 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, and are expanding to more than double our number of communities served by the summer of 2018.
Building a social entrepreneurial project is not an easy endeavor, but it is an incredibly humbling, rewarding experience. Here is the story of how several engineering students decided they wanted to make a difference in the lives of others across the world and, over the course of several years, creating a solution to empower people across the world to solve global water issues.
a Water Project is Born
Fall 2010 - Spring 2012
Enamul Hoque, the founder of the Rahima Hoque Girls' College in rural Bangladesh, approached Arizona State University's Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) program for support in providing clean drinking water to his school. Five students (Pankti Shah, Varendra Silva, Paul Strong, Mark Huerta, and Connor Wiegand) joined the team over the first year and a half in the hopes of making a positive impact. Preliminary research showed arsenic is a prevalent contaminant in the drinking water of Bangladesh. The team built their first physical water filtration prototypes out of 5-gallon buckets. The goal of filtering arsenic (atomic number: 33) one bucket at a time would inspire the team's name: 33 Buckets.
With the assistance of Layne Christensen Company and Dr. Paul Westerhoff, the 33 Buckets team designed a multi-layer, gravity-fed filtration system to remove arsenic and disinfect the water. The team won its first funding from ASU project competitions and supporters like former Dean Paul Johnson of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and Dean Mark Jacobs of the Barrett Honors College.
Understanding the real problem
Summer 2012 - Fall 2014
The 33 Buckets team made an assessment trip to the Rahima Hoque Girls' College project site. The team established connections at the school and gathered community support. Through our connections and water tests, we were able to better understand the real problem behind lack of access to safe drinking water. Technical solutions to the problem already exist in Bangladesh (and other developing countries). However, a lack of startup capital, technical knowledge, and local management structures prevents them from reaching those who need them most.
After returning from Bangladesh, 33 Buckets was selected as 1 of 5 finalists out of over 1800 applicants for the 2012 Dell Social Innovation Challenge! The team traveled to Austin, Texas for a week and received extensive mentoring in entrepreneurship and social impact. We pivoted our focus from creating a technological solution to an innovative, disruptive clean water distribution model.
33 Buckets worked over the next 2 years to research and develop this new model around three concepts: Sustainable Design, Business Infrastructure, and Education. In June 2013, the team secured funding for completion of the Bangladesh project through the PitchFunder platform.
Our first project completion!
December 2014 - January 2015
Four team members of 33 Buckets (Mark Huerta, Paul Strong, Vid Micevic, and Shardul Golwalkar) traveled to Bangladesh in December 2014 to complete the water project that had started four years ago. A community Water Advisory Committee was formed, a filtration system was installed in partnership with the Green Dot Corporation in Dhaka, a housing building was constructed, and storage containers were delivered. Additionally, the school begins to generate revenue through water sales. This revenue stream will be used to maintain the system for a very long time and to improve the education at the school. The team left extremely inspired and humbled by their experience. They will never forget all of the beautiful souls they met that made the trip so special.
As of October 2017, the water project continues to serve 900 students at the Rahima Hoque Girls' College and thousands more in their families, neighboring schools, and the surrounding community of Baher Char. The College has since received government support and funding, in part because of its tireless commitment to provide safe drinking water to its students and community.
Reaching Peru and the Dominican RepubliC
Spring 2015 - End 2016
The team returned from Bangladesh excited and inspired to reach thousands more people across the world. Wanting to take our work beyond a student project, the four co-founders, Mark Huerta, Paul Strong, Swaroon Sridhar, and Vid Micevic, established 33 Buckets as an LLC entity. Our team soon connected with two partners for two new water projects. The first of these was in Monte Plata, Dominican Republic in partnership with Schools for Sustainability (S4S). At this time, the community was drinking water riddled with E. Coli and other bacteria at 200x the accepted levels for clean drinking water. The second site was near Cusco, Peru in partnership with The Green Program. Over the winter of 2015-16, 33 Buckets won a total of $17,500 from the Pakis Social Entrepreneurship Challenge to fund the completion of these two projects, plus additional support from crowdfunding.
The team set out to implement the two projects in the summer of 2016. Partnering with the Green Program, the principal of the school, and community parents to get feedback, 33 Buckets completed its second clean water franchise. We held a big opening ceremony on June 8th, 2016 celebrating the partnership, educating the local community through WASH, and looking forward to a future with clean water.
From Peru, the 33 Buckets team traveled straight to the Dominican Republic. The first week was dedicated to interviewing all the families in the community to try to understand their current needs. Using insight from the interviews, the 33 Buckets team created a scaled-down business model. Local engineers and contractors created a "casita" to protect the water filter and community members would bring their own container to fill at the casita.
Expansion and A new era
2017 - beyond
33 Buckets is currently working to build on these two pilot projects and greatly expand its reach. In the summer of 2017, we assessed the water situations of 7 communities near the cities of Cusco, Trujilo, and Chimbote in Peru, and identified 5 potential project sites. Our team is currently planning to complete these 5 projects by summer 2018, serving over 3,000 people with safe water for a lifetime.
We plan to grow our organization exponentially and implement over 100 sustainable community water projects over the next 5 years, starting in Peru and moving outwards to other countries. In pursuit of this goal, we established a partner organization, 33 Buckets Foundation, with a 501(c)3 charitable status in October 2017. We were also featured by Arizona State University in a commercial that aired during Super Bowl LI in the state of Arizona. View our commercial below to hear Director of Programs Mark Huerta's story of joining 33 Buckets: