Purifying Water, Eliminating Plastic

Hawaiian Cool Water, Michael Hernandez-Soria

Hawaiian Cool Water founder Michael Hernandez-Soria with one of his water-purification systems | Christina O’Connor photo

“Let me ask you one question,” Michael Hernandez-Soria tells me in the office of his company, Hawaiian Cool Water. “When a plastic bottle of water sits in your car all day and gets hot, would you still drink it?”

No, I tell him, I would not. When he asks me why not, I realize that I don’t really have a solid answer. A few years ago, I began hearing claims and reading articles that stated if plastic bottles are left in the heat for too long, the chemicals from the plastic can seep into the water. Although there seems to be conflicting declarations surrounding this idea, the possibility that it could be true has been enough to keep me from drinking out of a plastic bottle that’s been lying around.

“Do you believe that in Hawaii that bottled water is delivered on refrigerated trucks?” Hernandez-Soria asks.

I had never thought about that, and the implications are unsettling. Although I refuse to drink out of a water bottle that’s been in my hot car, I don’t give much pause to drinking out of one that’s possibly already gone through a heated ride.

That is where Hawaiian Cool Water comes in. The company, which Hernandez-Soria founded about two years ago, designs and provides water-purification systems that offer an environmentally friendly alternative to plastic bottled water products. These systems can be used in lieu of those 5-gallon plastic jugs used in many offices and other public spaces.

“We’ve looked at how water is used and how it is dispensed, and we think about it from start to finish to make it more convenient and cleaner and healthier,” he explains.

Here’s how it works: The system is hooked up to a water line that is already in the building, and then the machine purifies the water. No plastic jugs sitting around in hot delivery trucks. Some machines also feature an additional line of defense: a powerful UV light that is applied as the water is dispensed to kill bacteria that could be present on the machine or at the spout. A Hawaiian Cool Water system requires a one-time installation with regular filter changes provided.

“It’s giving people better access to clean water,” Hernandez-Soria says.

In addition to providing purified, high-quality drinking water, the system aims to be better for the environment than its plastic counterparts. According to the National Resource Defense Council, only 13 percent of water bottles used in the United States are recycled. The rest end up in landfills or in the ocean. Plus, Hernandez-Soria says, there are transportation costs that go along with water-jug delivery to be taken into account.

Another reason that Hawaiian Cool Water says its product is a good alternative is because those 5-gallon jugs that are common in many offices are, well, 5 gallons. That’s about 40 pounds (and that’s too heavy to hoist on top of a dispenser, if you ask me).

When Hernandez-Soria first started conceptualizing the idea for Hawaiian Cool Water, it was as a health concern. He was worried about the potential dangers of consuming things out of plastic and tried to eliminate plastic from his own life.

Trained in biomedical and electrical engineering, Hernandez-Soria previously worked in health care, developing medical devices and biotechnology products. He also has an MBA from Harvard University and later ran a medical publishing company.

Hernandez-Soria says Hawaiian Cool Water has been “growing like crazy” recently. (Job seekers: The company is looking to fill a few sales positions.) Its client list is an impressive collection that includes Alternate Energy, Young Brothers, Starbucks, Hawaiian Telcom and Hawaii Pacific Health hospitals. Each machine can be specifically tailored to each client’s needs. While it currently deals with commercial customers only, there is the potential to expand to residential clients, as well.

“I’d like to see Hawaii be a leader in being free of bottled water,” Hernandez-Soria says. “And I’d like our company to be a big driver of that, and to help Hawaii eliminate the environmental impact of bottled water. I would also like to take this message and this brand to the Mainland, to Asia, to other places.

“This is the future,” he says. “We are the future of water in offices in Hawaii.”

For more information, call 954-9638 or visit