In October 2016, hurricane Matthew hit Haiti, destroying lives and livelihoods of many. People often lost everything, even the access to the most basic facilities, like fresh and clean water. As a result, people often had to cover large distances to get water. A new, practical water jacket, made of flexible plastic, offers support: it is light, practical, anti-microbial and is suitable for multiple use. This vest hangs on the body, leaving the person with his or her hands free, allowing them to carry other important things.  

It was Prof Fritz Yambrach from San José University in California who came up with the idea of the portable water vest. Prof Yambrach, who teaches Packaging technologies and materials, strived for a simple solution that could not only make life easier for people in disaster areas but could also be helpful in many developing countries; wherever people often have to transport drinking water over long distances.   

His idea: the water vest consists of a multi-layered plastic structure and has a bag-like structure. It is simply pulled over the head and held by the shoulders, hips and back of the wearer. According to the manufacturer, children - often used to get the water - can transport several litres of water over longer distances, therefore avoiding the risk of damages. They have their hands free to carry food, tools or fuel, if necessary. The vest has further advantages, according to the manufacturer: it is extremely robust, it contains anti-microbial agents that inhibit the growth of bacteria, mildew and mould, and is easy to recycle.   

With the vest, the developers want to replace the buckets and tins that are usually used in regions with water deficiencies, which are often difficult and heavy to carry, bulky and dirty. The water vest is currently being tested with support from humanitarian aid organizations in Ethiopia, Burundi, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.   

Discover here how plastic helps to ensure clean water for a growing world population.   


Photo: Fritz Water Vest