Millions of dollars are wasted annually on thousands of global water projects that break, become abandoned and/or prove to be unsustainable. Every day, women and children in developing countries are cruelly reminded of the short-lived hope of clean water when they pass by broken hand pumps or capped wells in their villages, forcing them to again rely on contaminated water sources. New approaches to financing water supply and sanitation are needed, and the model of People Water is a good one.
People Water is not a charity or a not-for-profit organisation. Instead, it is a for-profit, social enterprise. It is a cause-based business, committed to alleviating the global water crisis with an initiative called, ‘Drop for Drop’ where they develop or restore new sources of clean water by either drilling a new well, repairing an existing one, or establishing a water purification system. What they do is build or repair a well first and then sell their product, People Water, to fund it.
An average well in these poor communities can serve over 2,000 people and produce up to 3,000 litres per day. When properly maintained, a well can last a very long time, yet require regular maintenance. However, many wells breakdown because the not-for-profits that built them run out of money and can’t maintain them. One of the most common problems with wells is that a rubber gasket wears out. It’s a small, relatively inexpensive part that can last anywhere from three months to five years, depending on how heavily the well is used. Once this crucial part has worn out, the well ceases to function. Unless the organisation that built the well has the funds available to fix it, it will become defunct and the villagers are back to where they were before it was built: walking miles for water, and/or drinking water that isn’t safe. Currently, there are over 800,000 broken wells throughout the world.
Investments in water and sanitation will only be sustained if finances keep being allocated towards project upkeep; People Water’s concept is built on the idea of sustainability and all their wells are supported through its for-profit business principle, where their bottled water profits enable them to build, repair, and maintain wells consistently. Moreover, People Water has teamed up with Edge Outreach, an organisation that specialises in hand-pump repair, sanitation and education and is capable of repairing roughly three wells a day! All they require are the right tools and a little bit of funding.
When a well is put into a community, it changes everything. No more drinking dirty water, no more long exhausting walks for women and children and, crucially, the people of the village are healthier. People Water doesn’t care whether they are building a new well or fixing a broken one. What matters is that people are getting access to clean water; clean water means a chance to live a better life.
Photo Credit: People Water