IFC to loan $25 million to WaterHealth India for rural drinking water

Clean drinking water is in my opinion the most critical issue that must be addressed in any area suffering from poverty. So any news like this one gives me hope and a smile on my face. WaterHealth India has recently received a $25 million loan to install more than 600 water filtration systems throughout India. This issue cannot be understated as, 

[m]ore than 25 percent of India’s population does not have access to clean drinking water. Unsafe water is often the cause for waterborne diseases such as cholera and diarrhea. As more villages are included, the WaterHealth project will have important health benefits as well as help generate local employment and provide training, which could significantly improve earnings for people in rural areas. [Source: Sreelakshmi24’s Blog]

WaterHealth India has already installed 200 such systems in Andhra Pradesh and so hopefully their experience will result in a significant improvement to clean water access.

[TC-I Call to Action]: Job Opportunity with Piramal Water

For those interested in social enterprise, water, or addressing health issues, Piramal Water is looking for a Chief Operating Officer.  A quick overview of the organization:

Piramal Water Private Limited develops sustainable drinking water solutions for rural and urban populations where the quality of water is often the cause of more than 60% of common health ailments.  Our business is designed around scalable innovations, technical/process improvements, ensuring livelihoods for local entrepreneurs, and developing customized community water filtration systems that can produce ultra-affordable drinking water for the masses.

To learn more about this fantastic opportunity, please click here: Piramal Water COO

Water Profits

WaterHealth International, a private company and Acumen Fund investee, was covered in last week’s online BusinessWeek, which also includes a video featuring the founder, Tralance Addy (tipped from Acumen Fund’s blog).  The company aims to “provide sustainable access to clean, safe water to all, including the poorest communities. ” Their work in India includes over 200 WaterHealth Centres, mostly in Andhra Pradesh, and they are expanding to meet the demand from this pressing problem.

The BusinessWeek article notes why this venture is interesting:

WaterHealth typifies one of the latest trends in social entrepreneurship. A new generation of leaders believes it can do more for poor people if they operate as profit-making businesses rather than donor-backed organizations. WaterHealth has designed both a proprietary purification process and a simple facility for housing the equipment. It sells the systems to villages, helps secure financing, and runs the plants. After eight years, when the villages pay off their loans, the money they make from sales of water goes straight to their coffers—available for village improvements.

The article quickly touches on a debate about WaterHealth’s business model, as opposed to Byrraju Foundation’s model.  WaterHealth requires its communities to invest in the system through loans, whereas Byrraju provides subsidies and the water plant is a shared investment. The debate highlights the staple question of sustainability – what is the best approach to ensure long-term feasibility? More specifically, is there a finance scheme that works better than others in achieving the intended goal?

Access to Safe Drinking Water, the Sustainable Way

PepsiCo Foundation has awarded two grants, totaling $76 million, to sustainable water and sanitation efforts by WaterPartners and Safe Water Network. The PR release describes each program. WaterPartners will use the award to implement their WaterCredit program:

The WaterCredit program in India has two main components: first, to provide traditional grant funding directly to local non-government organizations to install pipes, faucets and storage cellars in impoverished communities, reaching some 60, 000 people. The second component is to establish a loan fund that will empower communities to expand access to safe water for an additional 60, 000 people over the course of the three-year project. This model produces a “multiplier effect” for impact based on a single source of funding and is the first time PepsiCo Foundation has applied micro finance as a strategic vehicle to advance water and sanitation improvements.

The idea of building community-based water supply projects through a combination of grants and loans is new to the water sector. Until now, nearly all water projects facilitated by other organizations have been funded entirely by grants, even when the individuals served by the project have the means to share costs.

Bridging microfinance and water is a topic that NextBillion.net covered earlier this year, so this is a connection that is working well in some regions and with the support of different organizations, such as ACCESS Development Services and Hindustan Unilever Limited. The vision behind this is that communities may not be able to afford methods that purify water and make it safe for drinking, but using microfinance models allows them to collectively take a loan and repay until they eventually purchase the system. Continue reading

The Size of India’s (And Your) Water Footprint

While reading an article called “Water Footprints Make a Splash,” I was immediately intrigued by the concept of a water footprint. What exactly is a water footprint? Author Ben Block uses coffee to illustrate:

If the full water requirements of a morning roast are calculated – farm irrigation, bean transportation, and the serving of the coffee – one cup requires 140 liters of water.

Water footprints measure the complete cycle and at all levels of a water’s use. The Water Footprint website explains that

the water footprint is an indicator of water use that looks at both direct and indirect water use of a consumer or producer. The water footprint of an individual, community or business is defined as the total volume of freshwater that is used to produce the goods and services consumed by the individual or community or produced by the business.

And how does India’s water footprint fare? Block’s article reveals: Continue reading

Rural Ingenuity: The H20 Pied Piper

Rainwater from the roof goes to an old open tank that was fortunately already placed at a desired height. The bottom of this tank is six feet above the ground. This tank, with a height of seven feet, has a capacity of about 14,000 litres. Water is allowed to fill up to 5.5 feet and then it starts overflowing. The excess water gets filtered in a locally made filter and pours into the open well. In this process, the tank holds upto 11,000 litres of water. As the rainwater is used for non-potable purpose, it is not filtered.

Explaining how one family’s rainwater collection system operates to provide both potable and non-potable sources of water for six months out of the year. The full article can be found on India Together.

Man vs. Water

An article in The Economic Times blames India’s water woes on human activity, as detailed in a report released by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Assocham). The secretary-general of Assocham, D S Rawat, said:

India’s water crisis is predominantly a manmade problem. Extremely poor management, unclear laws, government corruption, and industrial and human waste have caused this water supply crunch.

Not to mention poorly construction solutions, such as dams, and controversial approaches with privatization. Water woes are also linked to many other issues:

Conflicts over water mirror the most vexing changes the country is facing. The competing demands of urban and rural areas, the stubborn divide between rich and poor, inter-state differences and the balance between the needs of a thriving economy and a fragile environment are just a few examples

As this article suggests, mankind’s struggle with progress and development (and the exploitation that occurs in the process) often leaves necessary resources like water in danger. To learn more about water issues in India, check out the country profile at WaterPartners International.