Real People, Real Stories: 20 Liters

Real People, Real Stories: 20 Liters BannerReal People, Real Stories: 20 Liters Banner

More Than a Glass of Water

20 Liters is a non-profit organization that specializes in providing water sanitation and hygiene solutions to vulnerable people in Rwanda, Africa. Based out of Michigan, 20 Liters creates filters from five-gallon food grade buckets and provides 1 gallon f-style bottles for people to carry water from one place to another.

20 Liters Logo20 Liters Logo

The organization is headed by executive director Dave VanOpstall. The vision for 20 Liters from the perspective of the executive director is to make water solutions that are “simple, effective and long-lasting” for the ones who need it the most.

VanOpstall also hopes to provide a holistic approach to the organization and its efforts, with a goal of “not just getting people clean water but making sure they have the other tools they need to combat disease.”


The Local Yet Global Organization

The filters that 20 Liters uses are made with two five-gallon food grade buckets; one on top and one on the bottom. There is a PVC pipe in the top bucket and a small micron filter on the bottom. The dirty water is gathered from a nearby body of water with clean 1 gallon f-style bottles or 20-liter diesel containers and brought back.

The dirty water goes through the filter and reaches the bottom, where people can receive clean water. With this filter, they can filter out things like sand and other potential contaminants that can make people sick.

Gathering Water in RwandaGathering Water in Rwanda

Each filter that is sent to clinics, schools and other locations. They can last up to 10 years at a capacity of 100 liters a day. 2,500 filters are built and sent on a shipping container to Rwanda, helping 35,000 people a year with clean water. There is no fuel or energy needed to create these filters.

20 Liters has volunteers that help make the filters in the US as well as having people in Rwanda assist in teaching people how to use and clean the filters. Despite being more than 7,500 miles away, there is constant communication between the two countries, referring to everyone as a “happy family across the ocean.”

Because of their efforts in two continents, 20 Liters has helped over 250,000 people get clean water.

People Using Filters for Clean WaterPeople Using Filters for Clean Water

55 for 55: Ed Z’s Story

For his birthday, inspired by his daughter, board member Edward Zwyghuizen wanted to come up with a way to raise money for 20 Liters and support the men, women and children living in Rwanda who must walk miles on end to get their water. That is where he came up with 55 for 55.

This year, for 55 days leading up to his 55th birthday, Ed decided to use a yellow 1-gallon f-style bottle, walk to a body of water, fill the bottle up, filter it and gives to a family in his neighborhood. Additionally, he is raising money for 20 Liters, with every donation going towards creating the 5 gallon bucket filters.

“It’s promotional [for 20 Liters] but it is something that can help the next 100,000 people actually get clean water in Rwanda with the food grade buckets,” Zwyghuizen said.

Ed Z and His Family Gathering WaterEd Z and His Family Gathering Water

Bottles from The Cary Company

The 20 Liters board member shared a comical story of how he received the 1-gallon f-style bottles from The Cary Company.

“I was trying to find a cool container that when I walked, I can give to the families and kids. I searched all over the internet and you are the only company in the world that has those baby sized [f-style bottles], Zwyghuizen said, surprised that all 51 bottles were able to make the journey in one box. The bottles were able to successfully arrive at his door two days later.

The 55 for 55 fundraiser ended up raising $13,000, passing the initial $10,555 goal. “All of my neighbors now know this guy who’s walking for 55 days is carrying this little container, and it comes from you.” the board member said, proud of his fundraiser that has surpassed 120% of its goal.

55 for 55 Final Results55 for 55 Final Results

Ed's Outside Efforts

Outside of 55 for 55, Ed has been able to take trips to Rwanda to help deliver the filters and containers, seeing firsthand the impact that 20 Liters is having on the community. The board member recalls one filter that the non-profit delivered regrouping a family and keeping them together. There was a sense of reconciliation for the parents to see their children get clean water and stay together as a family.

As Ed puts it, “It is not just about the glass of clean water; it is about the massive impact that it has on everything else.” Additionally, Dave notes out that that same massive impact can act as a hope for the future.


What Is Next for 20 Liters?

20 Liters and their efforts can help 35,000 a year and have surpassed assisting 250,000 people overall in getting clean water and hygiene solutions. The non-profit is proud of what they have been able to accomplish in Rwanda and looking forward to what the future holds.

“We now know that we can do it. We know what we are doing is impacting in a deep way,” The executive director said, with the proven success taking guess work out of the equation. “A simple solution of two buckets provides clean water every day for ten years.”

The non-profit is also open to the idea of expanding to another country in the future. The non-profit is always looking to upgrade their systems and ways to go about sanitation and hygiene.


Learn More About 20 Liters

There are a lot of different ways that people can help 20 Liters and their mission, from donating and building filters to making their own walk for water. For more information, you can visit their website.

The Cary Company would like to thank 20 Liters for their time and continued efforts to help vulnerable people get the water access they need, allowing us to help along the way.

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