Frequently Asked Questions

The Program

Why the Water Box?

Because everyone deserves access to clean water. You can read more about how The Water Box program started here.

What is the Water Box Program?

The Water Box Program has three components: Collaboration, Filtration, and Testing.

The purpose of the Water Box is to help public service organizations in communities with unsafe water by giving them an alternative to distributing single-used bottled water. For these organizations, the Water Box removes the burden of funding, purchasing, transporting and warehousing bottled water and 501CTHREE partners with the community to tailor the program to their needs. Before a Water Box is deployed, we listen to what the residents and organization’s members require and work collaboratively to find solutions for water distribution, transportation, testing, and communication. Through this process we are constantly uncovering new challenges and discovering novel ways to improve the Water Box program.

The Water Box is a four-stage treatment system that has been designed to address the water safety of communities where the municipal water infrastructure has degraded or been contaminated. Because it is intended to be used by volunteers in the community, the Water Box is simple to operate and maintain. Built from readily available off-the-shelf components, the 3-stage filtration and UV treatment remove the most common mineral and biological contaminants in municipal water such as lead, arsenic, copper, e-coli, legionella, and many others.

Testing & Transparency
Many residents we encounter feel they have been misled by official sources about the safety of the water in their community. From the start of the program, it has been important that we take an approach of radical transparency, and that messages about the Water Box program come not from us but from trusted members of the community. So we developed a testing program that is administered locally by the volunteers distributing water. Water samples are taken and tested on-site each day that the Water Box is in use, and samples are sent periodically to a third-party certified lab for verification. All the test data for each location is published to our website so that residents can see the water is clean and safe.

Where are the Water Boxes located?

You can see all of our locations here.

How does the Water Box work?

The Water Box uses a three-stage filtration system and UV lamp to treat municipal water:

Stage One is a 5-micron membrane filter that removes sediment from the water

Stage Two is a 1-micron membrane filter that removes sediment and some biological contaminants

Stage Three is a 0.5-micron activated carbon filter that removes heavy metals such as lead and arsenic

Stage Four is a UV lamp that kills any remaining virus, cysts, or bacteria

The Water Box was designed with the help of JUST Water, The Last Kilometer, The University of Michigan, and Kettering University and is similar to systems installed in Flint's schools in response to the water crisis

How do I get a Water Box for my community?

We work with organizations that are helping their communities get access to water, food, and shelter. If you know an organization that would like to bring The Water Box to their community, contact us at here.

Can the Water Box help people in Africa?

The Water Box for Flint was designed to work in cities with contaminated municipal water. We are working on new designs that will help communities that get their water from wells or streams.

Is the Water Box a permanent solution for Flint and other cities?

The Water Box is an alternative to trucking in millions of single-use plastic bottles during a water crisis. It is not a permanent solution or an alternative to municipalities fixing their contaminated water systems.

Can I buy a Water Box?

The Water Box is not a product for sale. It is a program that is tailored to the water quality issues and community needs at each location. We are always looking for sponsors to help bring more Water Boxes to communities in crisis.

How much does a Water Box cost to build?

So far, The Water Boxes have been built using a combination of donations and volunteers. We raised $50,000 for each of the first four Water Boxes, which covered the materials, fabrication, testing, documenting each program, and paying for a year's worth of testing and maintenance. Because municipal water is very expensive in these communities, we are also reimbursing each location for the cost of the water that is handed out. We do expect the cost of each program to go down as we build more of them.

Can I build a Water Box?

Yes you can! The Water Box is intended to be an open-source program design that a community can use to address their need for clean water. The Water Box can be built using hand tools and common parts that you can find in a hardware store or online. We will be releasing the program design and downloadable plans for the Water Box in early 2021.


How often is the water quality tested?

Measurements are taken every time the Water Box is used for PH, TDS, and lead using hand-held meters. Additionally, water samples are collected and sent to accredited third-party laboratory to test for microbiological contamination

What are the test parameters?

The current test parameters are:​​
Ph between 6.5 and 8.5
TDS below 300 mg/L
Lead = zero
Coliform = zero after two tests
Ecoli = zero

What happens if the water doesn't pass?

If the water does not pass one of the tests, water distribution is immediately stopped until the issue is fixed and the tests are passed. The Water Box will be cleaned, flushed, and tested again until it passes.

Where can I see the test results?

The test results are posted on the page for each Water Box location.

How often are the filters changed?

The filters are changed every six months, or when the filter meter reads 'change'.


How can I donate?

  • There are many ways you can help The Water Box program:
  • Donate to fund more Water Boxes here
  • Donate to send more 5-gallon jugs here
  • Donate every time you make a purchase on Amazon here
  • Contact us here if you would like to sponsor a Water Box for your community
  • We can accept donations by cash or credit card, donations of stock, and materials

Are my donations tax-deductible?

Yes, we are an IRS-certified 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. While you are not required by the IRS to provide a receipt for donations of $250 or less, you will be sent a digital receipt when you donate online. For larger donations, we can send you a donation letter for your tax records.

How are my donations spent?

100% of your online donations go directly to bringing Water Boxes to communities in need. Our operations and administrative costs are funded by our corporate sponsors and philanthropic donors.

Do you need volunteers?

All of our Water Box locations could benefit from having more volunteers to hand out water. Volunteer hours are managed by the staff at each Water Box location. Click here to send us a message and let us know which organization you would like us to put you in contact with.

Are you hiring?

Not yet, we are just getting started. We will post any positions that become available on this website.

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