Design Students Envision New Ways to Provide Relief in a Water Crisis


Jackson, Mississippi, faced a dire water crisis earlier this year. After two major storms brought freezing temperatures to the state capital, its aging water system couldn't take it and pipes burst. For nearly five weeks of February and March 2021, thousands of residents were under a boil-water advisory.

Eric Anderson, an associate professor in Carnegie Mellon University's School of Design and a senior associate dean in the College of Fine Arts, wants to inspire new thinking and innovation through design to provide solutions to help cities handle future water crises like this one.

"Jackson, Mississippi, Flint, Michigan, and numerous other U.S. 'legacy cities' represent a shrinking and crumbling rust belt or postindustrial cities where water treatment and waste management infrastructure systems were built a century or more ago," Anderson said. "The residents, particularly the poor, regularly experience active water crises that are unaddressed because of political battles and limited resources for infrastructure investment."

Anderson sees an opportunity to complement crisis relief efforts to residents who are stuck in the middle.

In partnership with Bollinger Motors, the eight students in his fall Product Design 3 course worked on envisioning first responder mobile water filtration systems to deliver drinking and cleaning water to residences within the first 48 hours of a crisis — filling the gap until larger emergency response systems and organizations come online. Bollinger Motor's B2 vehicle platform provided an opportunity to think about scenarios where power was not an issue and the unit was not bound by terrain obstacles.

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Date Published: 
Friday, January 21, 2022