Call to Earth

Star student on a mission to clean up the world’s water

Deepika Kurup invented a revolutionary water purification system as a teenager after seeing children drinking dirty water in India.
CNN  — 

Our connection to water is elemental; it courses through our bodies, winds through our cities and countryside, covers 70 percent of the Earth’s surface.

Yet the lifeblood of our planet is facing a crisis. Around one in three people worldwide, or 2.2 billion, lack access to safe drinking water near their home. Every day, 800 children under five die because of contaminated water and poor sanitation.

By 2025, half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas – when resources in a region or country are insufficient for its needs.

‘Not something you see in the United States’

Deepika Kurup, 21, had a comfortable upbringing in Nashua, New Hampshire. Her father was a civil engineering professor who encouraged her interest in science and allowed her to set up a laboratory in the garage.

Her India-born parents took her to visit the country every year, and it didn’t take long for the young girl to realize how different it was from the United States.

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One day, at 14 years old, she noticed children around her age using plastic bottles to collect water so obviously dirty she wouldn’t go near it. “That really struck me,” she says. “That’s the only water that they have to drink and that same water they use to wash their clothes and cook their food.”