Wat’bag—the name refers to a bag of the type found in ‘bag in a box’ packaging and the water it is meant to carry. A sterile plastic pouch system that fits inside jerrycans, it is designed to allow the transport of water while preventing it from getting contaminated by oil, petrol, and bacteria.
It was designed by Chloé Louisin and Nadine Nielsen, two recent graduates of Strate School of Design in France, and took top honours nationally for the 2015 James Dyson Award. We asked them about how the design came to be, and what might come next for the project.
Q: Tell us about your trip to Togo and what you saw there.
We went to Togo as volunteers for an NGO called Urgence Afrique, or “Africa Emergency” in English. Our first mission was to raise awareness about environmental protection in Kuma Konda village.
During our trip we noticed the difficulties people had in getting drinkable water, especially in small and remote villages. Apart from water supplied by NGOs, local people drank rainwater or stagnant water that they stored in dirty containers. That’s why keeping water clean was also a big issue we wanted to work on.
Q: Two years later, you partner with Doctors Without Borders, study the Mugunga refugee camp in DRC and come up with Wat’bag. How difficult was it to do the research remotely?
It wasn’t very easy as we had to pay attention not to misinterpret the refugees’ habits and life there. That’s why we worked in partnership with members of Doctors Without Borders who had field experience and knew the issues of these refugee camps. We also read a lot of local articles concerning Mugunga and watched videos and looked at photos of it.
Thanks to our studies and feedback from Doctors Without Borders, we realized that drinkable water was often carried in jerrycans, for different reasons (due to their size, their resistance, etc.). We were astonished by the uncleanliness of the jerrycans and their toxicity, despite the solutions proposed by the NGOs: chlorine and soap.