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March 20, 2009 / compassioninpolitics

Clean Water Solutions and Low Cost Water Purification for the Base of the Pyramid

Clean Water Solutions and Affordable Water Purification for the Bottom of the Pyramid

Global Clean Water Facts and Statistics:

Global Issues points out that clean water issues effect half of humanity and that the UN Development Report from 2006 documents several critical facts:

• Some 1.1 billion people in developing countries have inadequate access to water, and 2.6 billion lack basic sanitation.
• Almost two in three people lacking access to clean water survive on less than $2 a day, with one in three living on less than $1 a day.
• More than 660 million people without sanitation live on less than $2 a day, and more than 385 million on less than $1 a day.
• Access to piped water into the household averages about 85% for the wealthiest 20% of the population, compared with 25% for the poorest 20%.
• 1.8 billion people who have access to a water source within 1 kilometre, but not in their house or yard, consume around 20 litres per day. In the United Kingdom the average person uses more than 50 litres of water a day flushing toilets (where average daily water usage is about 150 liters a day. The highest average water use in the world is in the US, at 600 liters day.)
• Some 1.8 million child deaths each year as a result of diarrhoea
• The loss of 443 million school days each year from water-related illness.
• Close to half of all people in developing countries suffering at any given time from a health problem caused by water and sanitation deficits.
• Millions of women spending several hours a day collecting water.
• To these human costs can be added the massive economic waste associated with the water and sanitation deficit.… The costs associated with health spending, productivity losses and labour diversions … are greatest in some of the poorest countries. Sub-Saharan Africa loses about 5% of GDP, or some $28.4 billion annually, a figure that exceeds total aid flows and debt relief to the region in 2003

Clean Water Solutions: The Example of Ultra Violet Waterworks

Ultra Violet Waterworks has an innovative water purification system that is affordable for those at the base of the pyramid:

Ultra Violet Waterworks (UVW) is a small-scale, energy-efficient, and low-maintenance mechanism that uses ultraviolet light to cheaply disinfect water. It is a uniquely effective device that operates using the equivalent of a 60-Watt light bulb at a cost of as low as 4 cents/ton of water treated, treating 15 liters/minute, and providing enough drinking water for 500–1500 people. As a result, UVW is the first practical means of providing many communities in developing nations with readily accessible, disinfected, safe drinking water.

UV Waterworks is a water purification system that disinfects surface- or ground-water of the viruses and bacteria that cause cholera, typhoid, dysentery and other deadly diarrheal diseases that kill millions of people in poor, developing nations.

To find more info on the UV Waterworks technology and their unique payment method for project financing.

Low Cost Clear Water Solutions: The Example of Lifestraw

In your research about water purification for the developmening world, you may also want to check out the Lifestraw:

Millions of people perish every year because they simply don’t have clean water to drink. Until now, there was not much we could do about this because systems to clean water were costly and required electricity and spare parts and and and … but the LifeStraw now offers a viable means of saving tens of millions of lives every year.

LifeStraw is a personal, low-cost water purification tool with a life time of 700 litres – approximately one year of water consumption for one person. Positive test results have been achieved on tap, turbid and saline water against common waterborne bacteria such as Salmonella, Shigella, Enterococcus and Staphylococcu.

You can find more information about Lifestraw at their website and at the Lifestraw feature at the Cooper Hewitts’ Design for the Other 90 Percent exhibit online. The lifestraw is $5 and provides one person with clean water for an entire year.

Low Cost Clean Water Solutions: The Example of the Bio Sand Water Filter

According to World Faith News:

For Cambodians in rural Svay Rieng province, a little sand goes a long way in helping make water safe for consumption. According to a report by humanitarian agency Church World Service, residents in 19 villages of Svay Rieng have been significantly reducing incidences of typhoid and diarrhea by drinking water filtered through affordable, user-friendly bio-sand water filter devices small enough to place in a home or office space. CWS has provided 1,216 of the filters to date in 56 Svay Rieng villages for use by people in some 1,900 households, schools, pagodas and commune halls.

The simple bio-sand water filters are a lifeline in a country where it’s estimated that 74 percent of all deaths comes from water borne diseases. Despite advances in recent years made by Cambodia’s public water utility in converting Phnom Penh’s war-degraded water supply system into a model safe-water utility serving the capital city, rural areas of Cambodia still suffer from lack of clean water resources, sanitation, and related hygiene awareness and education.

The cost for a typical bio-sand filter can range from US$15 to $20, depending on regional costs for materials. In the CWS program, those who receive the filters are encouraged and given training to build their own filter devices.

• “Filtration – Household Technologies,” Center for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology,

• “Biosand filter,” Fort Lewis College, Durango, Colorado

Clean Water Solutions: The Example of the KX Industries Water Filter

The Base of the Pyramid Network reports that KX Industries offers a $10 to $12 per year water filter for a family:

KX Industries (Orange, Connecticut) has developed a point of use technology that filters water free of viruses, pesticides, and bacteria, but has a running cost so low that very poor people may be able to afford it. The new microbiological system — consisting of a dispenser and disposable filters — uses nanotechnology fibers and removes anything from water that is not dissolved.

The company has put the retail price for the dispenser in the range of $6-$11 (lasts 3-5 years) and the filter itself at $0.75-$0.80. A filter can clean 100 gallons, which is enough drinking water for a family for a month at the cost of about 10$ per year.

That seems to offer a good water purification solution, but its not as flexible (decentralized and personal) as the Life straw.

Water Purification and Development at the Base of the Pyramid (BOP)
For more information about water for BOP populations, check out the “Next 4 Billion” on Water Markets for the base of the pyramid, which includes water purification and sanitation case studies. They point to Water Health International, Heritage Livelihood Services, Water Cone, PuR (Proctor and Gamble), the Shapla Arsenic Filter by International Development, Enterprises, Hindustan Lever Limited, KX World Filter, and Mytry by ITT Kanpur.

[Note: I haven’t checked to see what are the relative prices for any of these case study examples from the Next 4 Billion–but they are a fantastic place to start–if you have any experience feel free to leave a note in the comments section. Also point to the work of Cosmol in Bolivai and Marlon Lara in Honduras. Thanks.]

Global Clean Water Non-profit Projects and Charities
In the nonprofit space the work of Blood Water Mission, Living Water International (Global Water Projects), and Charity Water (Charity Water Video) are quite impresssive.


(image credit: Next Billion)


Leave a Comment
  1. Social Enteprise for Change / Sep 2 2010 9:38 am

    Filter Pure Filters provides $30 filters to families which provides 5 years of clean water (unfortunately, I don’t know how many people that assumes in each family). They were most recently in Haiti:

    Here is another water purification device (I’m curious about the exact application or why someone would go to the trouble of carrying it–it being so seemingly big). It does seem cool (thanks to P. Polack for passing it along)

    Here is a link to Biosands filter.

    I would talk to a handful of organizations & a handful of companies about effectiveness, cost, and logistics.

  2. compassioninpolitics / Sep 22 2010 10:37 pm

    Water Advocates has an assortment of clean water and sanitation links on its site which can serve as a jumping off point for clean water initiaves for the base of the pyramid:

    Specifically if you Google “Water Stories:Expanding Opportunities in Water and Small Scale-Sanitation Projects” p. 38 has a chart which includes Chlorination, BioSand Filtration, Ceramic Filtration, Solar Disinfection, Filtration/Chlorination, and Flocculation/Chrolination with all the costs in terms of cost per user & cost per object which assumes initial start up and ongoing cost (it appears all are below $3 per family):
    I would use this as a starting point for my water filtration research.

    I’ll also reiterate that the model that Charity Water & Blood Water Mission use are quite impressive on cost & return & value metrics.

    Moreover, the stats at Charity Water may help you 1) tell the water story 2) understand the water issue in more detail. For instance, I had no idea that the sanitation issue was arguably more important than the clean water issue for preventing water-borne diseases.

    As a side note–it would be interesting to find out how NGOs optimally allocate centralized vs. decentralized solutions for clean water (ie options available for clean water filtration vs. clean water drilling).

  3. compassioninpolitics / Aug 12 2011 6:37 am

    Here is another clean water or water filtration solution I’ve run across in my research:

  4. compassioninpolitics / Oct 19 2011 12:58 am

    Paul Polak recently pointed to this article, although I don’t know what the price point is:

  5. Compassioninpolitics / Mar 14 2012 5:28 am

    This model in India may work too–Wind horse & Spring Health partnership. Not sure where they buy their water from:

  6. compassioninpolitics / Feb 9 2013 5:36 pm

    I might also suggest this:

    Or at least the main site which I’m linking to.


  1. Good on Clean Drinking Water « Compassion in Politics: Christian Social Entrepreneurship, Non-Profit Organizations, and Base of the Pyramid Design Solutions
  2. Best Social Business Venture Posts of 2009 « Compassion in Politics: Christian Social Entrepreneurship, Non-Profits, and Base of the Pyramid/BOP Design Solutions

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