Duvon McGuire, of New Life International, talks about his desire to provide clean water to those in need across the globe. McGuire’s Christ-centered organization creates water filtration systems for use in developing countries and disaster sites. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Duvon McGuire, of New Life International, talks about his desire to provide clean water to those in need across the globe. McGuire’s Christ-centered organization creates water filtration systems for use in developing countries and disaster sites. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Duvon McGuire's warehouse in Underwood is stacked with totes containing easy-installation water-purification units and instruction manuals written in a host of different languages ready to be shipped across the world.

Such inventory and variety is necessary when you're facing an urgent global humanitarian crisis. About one in six people in the world live without regular access to safe water, and about 25,000 people die every day from waterborne diseases.

"Each tote in here represents a system that can take care of somewhere between 1,000 people and 10,000 people," said McGuire, who invented and continues to improve the clean-water systems.

The units are developed through New Life International, a Christian nonprofit outreach organization dedicated to providing clean water to areas of the world lacking proper infrastructure and regular access to safe water.

The organization has served more than 3,000 communities in 78 countries within the past 16 years.

Local churches and mission groups often build and sponsor the water units, which are designed as quick-connect kits. The volunteers also are the field workers responsible for delivering and setting up the units and then educating the local community.

The units are intended to be placed in locations where they can benefit the highest number of people.

"This is a village-type-level approach," McGuire said. "But we have people who have taken the same purifier and pushed it a little bit, and they've taken care of 10,000 people. There's a raft out in a lake in Cambodia where one purifier is serving 12,500 people."

New Life International began with McGuire's parents, Byron and Yvonne, who became involved in mission trips in the 1960s. The family later developed a retreat in Underwood in Clark County that, to this day, continues to host youth programs.

Not long after dedicating their lives to the mission field in South America and other developing sections of the world, the family got a first-hand look at the horrific effects of not having safe drinking water.

During a mission trip to Ecuador, McGuire himself actually contracted giardia - an intestinal infection - from contaminated water and nearly died. The ailment went undiagnosed until the locals reached out to a doctor, who was able to identify the problem after contacting the family on a short-wave radio.

From there, a lifelong mission and understanding of the need for safe water was forged.

McGuire later studied biology and chemistry in college and began developing a purification system in the 1990s. He shopped around area hardware stores looking for parts to modify his system and regularly conducted research and development on a picnic table in the shade - in a natural and bare-bones setting that was not so different from the areas he intended to serve.

His goal: "Functionality with an eye toward affordability."

When Hurricane Mitch hit Honduras in 1998 - after more than six years of research and tweaking things - McGuire took his project to the implementation phase.

He asked himself, "If not now, when?"

"We actually put together the parts on picnic tables out here," he said, referring to his family's retreat property in Underwood.

He personally delivered more than 30 portable, lightweight water-purification units to Honduras. The organization now has a full workshop and controlled environment in which to research, create and fit each of its water purification systems.

"It's been a process ever since, making incremental improvements and sometimes making breakthrough-type things," he said.

McGuire said the biggest barrier for clean water is providing education for those in developing countries. He said there is also a need for those in America to understand that a lack of safe drinking water is a global crisis.

He notes that it wasn't that long ago that Americans were suffering and dying from waterborne illnesses.

"We don't think of where we've come: The disinfection of drinking water, combined with sanitation," he said. "These are all things that today we take for granted."