Clemson Engineering Student Tackles Global Water Crisis Through Service
Katie Mruz, an engineering student at Clemson University, is on a mission to make the global water crisis simply “a fact of history.”
No, she isn’t a millionaire, nor is she a magician. She’s a junior studying mechanical engineering with a minor in visual arts.But Katie is determined to use what she does have: a knack for engineering, a passion for service and creativity.
Katie first learned about the global water crisis during the first day of an entrepreneurship class her freshman year.
“Before I came to college, I really had no idea what the global water crisis was,” Mruz stated. “We were talking about nonprofit entrepreneurship. It was about a nonprofit called Charity: Water and that was the first time I ever heard about the global water crisis. After that I was asking, “What is this?” and I wanted to know more.”
Since then, Katie has put much of her time and energy towards ending the crisis.
One special way Mruz has been able to do this is by using her background in engineering.
“I’ve always loved math… I got started in engineering around senior year because I wanted a way to do art and math, so I figured engineering was probably the best outlet for that.”
Clemson Engineers for Developing Countries (CEDC) is a group that works to connect engineering students with opportunities to use their skills to make a difference in the world. Through CEDC, Katie joined a team fighting the water crisis by working to craft easily reproducible and highly effective water filters for families in impoverished areas.
The filters are called slow sand filters. They work by flowing contaminated freshwater through a layer of sand, filtering out both physical sediments and harmful bacteria. It is a system requiring few materials, making it affordable and easy to assemble.
“Our group, Clemson Engineers for Developing Countries, has partnered with a Haitian village called Cange,” Mruz remarked. “(The filters are designed for) household use. It can last up to a couple years before any maintenance needs to be done, and they’re very easy to build, very easy to use and very cost efficient.”
The team is seeking to gather data proving the effectiveness of these systems, as well as improved upon current models. Using only a bucket, a trash can, PVC pipe, sand, gravel and cloth, their aim is to build a filtration system that gets the water 99 percent purified, the standard set by the World Health Organization.
From there, the group will put together an instruction manual to pass on to the citizens in Cange. Each family will have the opportunity to build and maintain their own filter. This creates direct access to clean drinking water and is easily sustainable over time.
Outside of her involvement with CEDC, Katie volunteers with Clemson’s Walk for Water. This annual event is a walk to raise money for a Charleston, South Carolina based nonprofit called Water Mission.
“(The Walk for Water is) a simulation of what women and children have to walk every day,” Mruz tells. “It’s an average of 3.1 miles that they have to walk to get access to water, and most of the time it’s not even clean water. The time that they spend walking the 3.5 miles, they aren’t able to go to school because they’re constantly having to get water and it will take hours out of their day that a well with clean water could save.”
The global water crisis presents many health concerns for affected populations.
“90 percent of disease in developing countries is usually due to poor sanitation of water, and around 600 million lack access to improved drinking water. 1.8 billion people drink water that is unsafe every day.”
Mruz is part of the team that leads the Clemson walk. As co-recruitment chair, she’s spent the last year raising awareness about the crisis in the Clemson student body.
Mruz hopes to start a Walk for Water event in her hometown of Greenville, South Carolina as well.
Throughout each endeavor Katie takes, there is always a common theme: serving others.
When questioned about the legacy she hopes to leave on this earth, Mruz made known her desire to “give everything away.”
“I wouldn’t want to keep anything for myself,” Mruz said. “But have it all be used in a way that is helping other people.”
She credits this thinking in part to her former art teacher and mentor.
“My high school art teacher – she’s been my biggest inspiration. One of the things that she taught me since I was really little was to give back with the things you’ve been given. She’s always taught me to always use my art to help others in any way possible.”
That mentality is what led Katie, her teacher and another student to serve with a Greenville, South Carolina based organization called Set Free Alliance.
The nonprofit approached Katie’s teacher to illustrate a children’s book they were writing to raise money for their ministry. In response, she took the opportunity to pull in the two students to help. Together, they donated their talents to this group working to rescue children in India out of slavery and into freedom. Since then, Set Free Alliance has raised over $3 million dollars, thanks in part to the book sales.
When asked if she would do something like this again, Mruz said, “Absolutely.”
There is more to come from Katie Mruz. Not only does she have her talent and intelligence to guide her, but she believes in the power of One who is greater.
“Everything I do, I try to make sure it aligns with what God’s plan for the world,” she says.
Mruz has kept this in mind as she champions the organizations that she loves.
“With Set Free Alliance, they’re not only freeing them from slavery but teaching them about the bondage of sin. They teach them about Jesus all the time. That’s the main emphasis of everything they do— to further the kingdom. With Water Mission, they’re also a Christian nonprofit, so they spread they Gospel to everywhere they go to.”
Katie isn’t discouraged despite not being in full-time ministry. She trusts that God is big enough to use her just as she is.
“I always try to find a way that even though I’m in engineering… I can incorporate it into the mission field. I’m not the best at public speaking or things like that, so getting in front of people and trying to preach the Gospel is really intimidating to me,” Mruz remarks. “This is a way that I can help by using my gifts. We’re all given different skill sets, so even though public speaking isn’t my gift, I can use the gifts that I do have in order to reach the same goal.”
With her talents and faith— even the size of a mustard seed— there’s no telling what Katie could do.
Global water crisis: watch out.
Connect with Katie Mruz:
LinkedIn // firstname.lastname@example.org
See her art on Facebook // Available for purchase through Etsy