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April 30, 2013 | Tom Ballard

Caldwell focused on pure, unpolluted water

TivaWater(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a two-part series on Knoxville’s Neal Caldwell.)

“I’m the world’s most dangerous optimist,” Neal Caldwell says in describing his latest undertaking – helping address the 1.2 billion people, mostly in Third World countries, who are forced to drink polluted water.

The Knoxville business executive and inventor paints a particularly vivid picture of the challenge by noting that 5,000 children are dying every day from drinking polluted water. He and his colleagues intend to do as much as they can to reverse the statistics through a project called TivaWater.

The faith-based initiative, which is focused on Uganda, has partnered with the World Water Project. While clean, pure water is the initial goal, it is part of a broader strategy to help Third World Countries and their citizens develop economically.

Caldwell became involved about three years ago and is contributing his expertise as an inventor. During our interview and tour of Dalen Products, Inc. that he founded, Caldwell showed us his TivaWater laboratory – a small space where his research includes finding just the right sand for a newer filtration device.

“We are coming-out with a new device in about six months,” Caldwell said. “It’s half the size, half the price; and far more easy to maintain.”

The current device has about 20 pounds of sand and sells for $40; the newer will have only nine pounds of sand. Ease of maintenance is a key to secure widespread usage.

Caldwell says a single unit can typically serve two families, producing five gallons of pure water a day. The key to the device is the filter which draws on Caldwell’s skills as an inventor. His efforts involve everything from refining the sand mixture to developing prototypes.

“Designing is what turns me on,” Caldwell says. “I enjoy every minute of it.”

Those interested in learning more about TivaWater can go to The site also includes information on making donations to provide a device to support one or two families.

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