Americans are drinking more water and fewer sugary drinks, racking up sales of 42.6 billion 1-liter plastic bottles of water at a cost of $100 per person each year.

Students and faculty at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio, have a healthier, cheaper and greener way to quench their thirst: three sleekly designed “smart” water stations from Woosh Water Systems of Tel Aviv.

Installed last February in the company’s first commercial pilot, the touch-screen stations let people clean and fill reusable bottles with purified, chilled water for a fraction of the price of bottled water — 50 to 75 cents, depending on the size of the container – payable by credit card or a Blackboard Transact card  used on many college campuses.

The stations even display to each user the positive impact on the environment in terms of reducing plastic waste and carbon emissions.

Though Woosh began with beta sites in Tel Aviv that ran successfully from 2013 to 2015, it’s targeting its sales to the United States. Large college campuses are perfect testing grounds.

“We had giveaways of stainless steel bottles at Sinclair to introduce the concept,” Woosh cofounder and CEO Itay Tayas Zamir tells ISRAEL21c. “Students are early adopters and they’re really into the advantages of the system for the environment and for saving money. Many students already carry reusable bottles with them. More than 20 campuses in US have banned sales of plastic bottles, so it’s a huge market.”

Clearly, it’s not the only market. Woosh is installing another three stations in Dayton – in the county seat, city hall and children’s hospital. Toward the first quarter of 2017, more stations are to follow in state-run nature parks in the area.

This is all made possible through a partnership between Woosh, Smart Water Stations USA (SWS) and the Dayton Region Israel Trade Alliance (DRITA), an organization established to introduce Israeli technologies to the Ohio region.

At the same time, Woosh has signed on a large-scale project for Miami Beach, launching in early 2017 with 25 outdoor smart water stations. Other installations likely will follow in additional cities.

Service from A to Z

Woosh was founded in 2010 after Zamir, who spent a year at the Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership in Tel Aviv, was out walking in Tel Aviv with his toddler and couldn’t find a clean, safe source of cold water for his water bottle.

Three years of research and development focused on a safe purification mechanism that would ensure high-standard water quality in an outdoors environment, plus a first-of-its-kind bottle rinsing system.

During that time, Woosh received a strategic investment from ODIS, an Israeli maker of water filters and irrigation equipment. Woosh’s offices are in the ODIS complex in Petah Tikva.

Water enters the Woosh station from the city water main, is purified using a patented ozone process, and is chilled. The water is spun automatically every 10 minutes to keep it fresh. The optional bottle-rinsing feature, which takes 10 seconds, rinses bottles in ozone-enriched water and then washes and cools them in fresh water.

“We provide not only the product but also the service from A to Z, including installation, maintenance and customer service,” says Zamir.

This unique business model is meant to generate jobs for local residents where the stations are installed. For the pilot project, DRITA is providing the management and Sinclair’s maintenance staff was trained to service the units.

Now seeking a strategic US partner to help it scale up, Woosh has set up offices in Dayton, Miami Beach and Atlanta.

“R&D, engineering and manufacturing will remain in Israel,” says Zamir, who currently employs eight people full time.

The R&D staff is constantly tweaking the product. The original water station was meant for outdoors, but an indoor model was designed for Ohio, where the weather is colder than in Tel Aviv. “Next month we will introduce a whole new user interface,” Zamir reveals.

In 2013, Woosh was presented at the United Nations by Ambassador Ron Prosor, and in 2014 the Israeli product was included on Intel’s list of Top 10 Cool Things Powered by the Intel IoT.

Zamir says he hopes the company will grow big enough to offer its smart water stations throughout the United States and eventually in other countries as well.

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