Global Water Labs

Innovator Track: Start-up Nonprofit

Fast Pitch 2020
Community Choice Award Winner

Meet the Speaker

Katya Cherukumilli

What inspires you most about the work you do?

I am inspired and motivated by the idea of advancing the human right to clean drinking water. As a graduate student, I was shocked to learn that naturally occurring fluoride in groundwater was the root cause of a global health crisis affecting 200 million people, with approximately 1/3 of them living in India. Before moving to the U.S. at age 7, I grew up in South India, near regions of severe groundwater fluoride contamination. Later during my Ph.D. at UC Berkeley, I returned to India to conduct fieldwork and I met numerous skeletal fluorosis patients. In particular, I felt a strong connection to a woman named Rajitha, who like me was in her early 20s and also spoke Telugu. Having become crippled as a young child, Rajitha was just beginning to learn how to read and write by the time I was already mid-way through graduate school. The main factor influencing our disparate fates was that I was born to a middle-class family with secure access to clean water and Rajitha was not. After this trip, I felt motivated and obligated to reduce the disease burden among children by developing solutions to provide locally affordable and clean drinking water.

How can someone engage or get involved with your organization/mission?

Any volunteers, companies, funding agencies, or audience members interested in Global Water Labs’ mission and work can get involved by visiting our website at They can also directly contact our founder, Dr. Katya Cherukumilli, via email (, LinkedIn, or Twitter (@katyac_h2o).

Learn more about Global Water Labs

Global Water Labs designs and deploys novel drinking water treatment technologies that are low-cost, environmentally sustainable, culturally appropriate, and easy to operate and maintain. We aim to transfer technical expertise to NGOs, governments, and private industries working on water provision in resource-constrained communities locally and globally. Currently, we are focused on remediating inorganic chemical contaminants including fluoride in East Africa and India and heavy metals in Washington State.