Why start up a start-up for clean water?

There is a huge range of organisations that run clean water projects and there are loads of organisations that work in water technologies, so why start a new one? The answer is two-fold: sustainability and water quality.

First, sustainability: we have seen lots of water projects that are well intentioned but don’t manage to be sustainable. That means that money is spent on, for example, a water pump for a community to get water to drink – which is great! But this is problematic if the pump can’t be maintained because the community can’t afford to repair it, or can’t easily get hold of the right equipment to fix it, or no one is responsible for its upkeep. The pump is left in a state of disrepair, and this has an adverse effect on the ability of the community to get access to water.

Second, quality of water: water is complicated stuff! Just because it looks clean does not mean it is safe to drink. Groundwater (water that is deep below the surface) is often assumed to be free from bacteria and other contaminants because it looks clean: groundwater often appears cleaner than pond water or water from rivers (surface water). But other contaminants, such as arsenic, may be present. Arsenic in groundwater is common in many countries and is naturally occurring; for example, arsenic is very commonly found in groundwater across the Ganges and Brahmaputra river deltas in South Asia.  Drinking this arsenic water over a long period of time results in cancers, skin lesions, developmental defects, diabetes, neurotoxicity and heart problems. Using arsenic contaminated water to irrigate food crops and for animals also means arsenic enters the food chain, too.

Clean Water Wave has been set up in response to both of these issues. Our CAFE filtration system can remove arsenic from groundwater and remove all known human parasites, so the quality of the water it filters is genuinely safe for human consumption. Our social enterprise model, in which we (a) train up local entrepreneurs to manage and maintain the CAFE and (b) ensure that clean, safe water is sold at genuinely affordable rates means that there is a sustainable model for clean water: water sales mean there is money to cover not just the wages of the CAFE manager, but to cover any maintenance of the filtration system as well as a long-term surplus to support locally beneficial health, social, and environmental projects.

Our company is a Community Interest Company, which means that all of our profits and assets are used for community projects and not for our personal benefit. Any surplus we make as a company is returned to further our goals to have 10million people drinking truly clean and safe water over the next ten years.

Let us know your thoughts. We’re keen to learn from best practice and your experiences.