Concerned that the prices of bottled water are going up? Well, spare a thought for millions across the world who don’t even have potable water, never mind bottles to store it in.

Thankfully, technology and innovation are here to save the day. A new portable water filter called LifeStraw will let users drink water from almost any imaginable source. Whether it’s water from a stream or contaminated dam, the LifeStraw will purify it, removing both dirt and pathogens.

Rather than have a full-on, expensive filtration system that requires electricity, the designers of the LifeStraw used passive filtration technologies that are powered humans. The simple act of sucking on the straw, which measures 29mm in diameter and is just 25cm long, sets into action the filters. The Swiss company behind the device, Vestergaard Frandsen, says that it has had positive results on regular old tap water, as well as turbid water from swamps and dams, to saline water. In all cases the LifeStraw has been able to eliminate waterborne bacteria such as Salmonella, Shigella, Enterococcus and Staphylococci.

Powered by humans, the device can filter up to 1 000 litres of water. That’s enough to satiate one human’s thirst for about a year. And cleaning it after each use is as simple as blowing on it, to clear out the filters. Said filters will take care of anything up to 0.2 microns in size – less than a quarter the size of a red blood cell.

One LifeStraw does attract a price that is perhaps a bit higher than most impoverished people could afford. At $20 (around R220) it is by no means prohibitively expensive, but charities should be able to rally up enough sponsors to get these into the hands of villagers in developing countries around the world. And Vestergaard has an even better policy: for every LifeStraw purchased, it will donate clean drinking water to school children in Africa. The more you drink, the more they get to drink, too.