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NASA Technology Aids Water Purification Efforts in Iraq

Villagers in Iraq are better off today, thanks in part to NASA engineers from the Marshall Space Center in America's deep south.

Concern for Kids is a non-profit organization that has been operating in and around northern Iraq since 1992. President Todd Harrison learned of an urgent need for clean water in the village of Kendala, and he had an idea.

"The water situation was pretty desperate,” he says. “The population of the village had dwindled. The well that they were drawing water from was right near where the sheep would come to get water as well. They would have to take the water from the well and we were told that they would have to take it back to their homes and actually filter it or strain it."

Harrison turned to his sister, NASA engineer Robyn Carrasquillo. "NASA's water purification technology developed for the shuttle and the international space station has been adapted by a commercial company, Water Security Corporation, out of Reno, Nevada, and with the aid of a non-profit organization called Concern for Kids, out of Atlanta, and the U.S. Army; [it] has been deployed in northern Iraq in the Kurdish area to help the Kurdish people get clean water," said Carrasquillo.

Volunteers from NASA went to Kendala. With help from citizens and U.S. Army personnel, they installed an adapted water pumping system, bringing safe drinking water to villagers for the first time in years.

U.S. space engineers have been designing and improving a water and recycling system for shuttle astronauts and the international space station for decades.

"The water recovery system developed for the international space system is a combination of a urine processor and a potable water processor,” Carrasquillo explains, “which takes the astronauts urine, and all the other waste waters that condensates from the atmosphere and recycles it to clean water.”

NASA is completing an air and water recycling system for the space station that is about the size of two refrigerators. It is planned for installation in 2008. Developers say it will dramatically reduce the need for re-supply missions from Earth.