Meet Cyrus Maroofian, the Viterbi Alumnus Changing the World through Water

| April 30, 2024

The Trojan’s mission to bring potable water started at USC



When Cyrus Maroofian, B.S. CE ‘15, enrolled in the civil and environmental engineering program at USC Viterbi in 2011, he didn’t know it would change his life. The native Angeleno always had an altruistic personality: raised on the notion of giving back, he even shed tears once while donating clothes as a kid. But his selflessness truly showed after a vacation to Jamaica in 2015, where the Trojan watched locals use concrete slabs to catch rainwater and drink it.

“When I came back to USC after springbreak and took the 340 [advanced] writing class, I wrote about the clean water crisis in Jamaica and thought ‘Oh, my God, this is crazy, someone needs to tell them it’s solvable,’” he said. “This isn’t like a food crisis where there’s literally no food, you can make that water clean.”

Over the years, the USC Viterbi alumnus travelled to Bolivia in 2016, Bali in 2019, and Cuba in 2022 on his own to deliver water filters, and with NGOs in Tanzania in 2015, Baja Mexico in 2018, and Vietnam in 2023, among other countries.

Maroofian made his first real impact as a junior in 2015 by joining forces with Kevin Kassel, who was pursuing a business degree at the USC Marshall School of Business, to donate water filters to people in countries without potable water sources. The pair formed a student club at USC, Club H20, which has about 20 students from different programs who believe in their mission: giving water filters to organizations and individuals traveling to places in need and train them to install and operate the filters.

Working with Sawyer Products, a Florida-based company that makes water filters for outdoor activities, Club H20 has shipped hundreds of filters around the world, including China, Guatemala, Nepal, and India.

“Club H20 would throw parties and events, and people would come, and we’d raise money, and then we just would buy filters,” Maroofian said. “The project has always been real in my head, but Club H20 was the first publicly real thing before Water Access To All, which is like, the adult version of it.”

During this time, Maroofian also met USC alumnus Arthur Han, the executive director of the Han-Schneider International Children’s Foundation, which supplies children in underserved geographies with essential goods and infrastructure. It was Han who first encouraged Maroofian to go on life-changing mission trips, allowing him to do so through his foundation.

With the sponsorship of Han-Schneider International Children’s Foundation, the now 32-year-old Maroofian was able to form Water Access To All, or W.A.T.A., in 2023, an organization that brings water filters to people in need around the world.



“We learned the hard way that shipping filters was a problem when Nepal needed them after the earthquake in 2015,” Maroofian said. “Six-hundred-dollars’ worth of filters got caught in customs, and I was like, ‘Dude, never again are we mailing filters. We have to bring them ourselves.’”

Maroofian still partners with Sawyer Products, which manufactures filters with a hollow fiber membrane, which are essentially strings so tight that they capture dirt, bacteria and many harmful substances that contaminate water. Maroofian said these filters last “essentially forever” with proper maintenance, unlike the ones using chemicals to absorb water pollution.

“Carbon has a specific absorption that it can take, so filters like Brita need to be replaced after a while,” he said. “This is physical filtration, so nothing gets exhausted as long as you keep it clean.”

In early March 2024, Maroofian hosted a fundraising event for Water Access To All with friends he met at USC. Meanwhile, fellow USC alumni, Nida Soe, who studied GeoDesign and met Maroofian on the school’s surf team, reached out with an exciting request.

“She just said, ‘Hey, the village that you’re in Vietnam looks really similar to the village that I work with in Burma,’” he said. “‘We need filters. Can you bring some?’”

Maroofian and W.A.T.A.’s head of operations, Izaiah Martinez, were already planning to visit Vietnam to deliver 50 filters this month; after talking to Soe, the itinerary included a quick stop in Myanmar to bring 20 water filters and assess future opportunities.

Maroofian is ecstatic about the official launch of W.A.T.A, whose first mission was the recent Southeast Asia trip.

“I’ve gone to Mexico, Vietnam and Tanzania to build computer centers, teach English, and do whatever the nonprofit I was with is focused on,” he said. “

But one time I set up a water filter at a school in Tanzania and when saw the impact, I was like, ‘I can’t unsee what I just saw. This is it; there’s no other feeling than this.’”

“All the money I make goes to this, and I’m ready for it,” said Maroofian, who serves as marketing manager and project engineer position at pinnPACK, his family’s plastic recycling and packaging company. “Ideally, at some point the goal is having an impact that’s as wide as like the Red Cross.”

Published on April 30th, 2024

Last updated on May 3rd, 2024

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