Towards a Sustainably Healthy Future
UpWater endeavors to achieve safe drinking water for people in under-resourced communities. But we don't want to stop there. We also strive for long-term improvement of the people's health, and we believe that safe drinking water can be a steppingstone to that goal. That's why our approach comprises not only a water-treatment innovation, but also community-oriented social transformation and sustainable business. We'll be developing, testing, and refining the three components of the UpWater approach throughout the period of the project.
For quick overview of UpWater, check out these slideshows:
A Breakthrough Water-Treatment Innovation
We have developed a drinking-water-treatment device that i) disinfects water very quickly and effectively, ii) is beautifully simple, and iii) is very affordable by people in under-resourced communities. No other point-of-use water-treatment devices concurrently have those three qualities.
Our device employs solar water disinfection (SODIS), a proven technique that uses the sun's UV radiation and thermal heating to inactivate pathogens, the microorganisms that cause diarrheal diseases and deaths. The current design of the device consists of two transparent, food-safe plastic bags, a flat support panel, and black paint or tar. All components are inexpensive and easy to source, transport, distribute, and replace. The assembly requires no special tool or skills, and the device requires only solar energy to operate. In preliminary tests, the device could completely disinfect water from a natural surface source within 2.5 hours on a sunny day (compared to 6 hours needed by conventional SODIS devices), and within 6 hours on a completely cloudy day (as opposed to 48 hours of conventional SODIS devices). Several other attempts to expedite the SODIS process sacrifice the simplicity, inexpensiveness, and portability potential of the technique.
We are continuing to refine the design of the device, striving to make it more effective while maintaining its beautiful simplicity and affordability. We are also conducting disinfection-efficacy and material studies, to ensure safety for the users. Furthermore, we are developing additional locally-appropriate water-treatment devices to complement the main solar-disinfection treatment.
A Community-Oriented Social Transformation
The affected people need to fully understand the problem and be motivated to find long-term solutions. We endeavor to foster community-oriented social transformation. Through community campaigns, we will educate people in the target communities on health impacts of drinking water, and aim to induce behavior changes on their drinking-water and hygiene practices, with a special focus on mothers and children. Participation of people in the communities will be crucial. We will work with them to set long-term health goals, draft action plans, and explore potential solutions. We will offer our device as one effective solution that can be readily and inexpensively adopted, as a steppingstone to long-term health betterment. We hope the potential users will see value in the device and be willing to invest in it, rather than viewing it as another charity.
A Sustainable Business Model
With our sustainable business model, the device will be sold to end users at an affordable price, which will be determined by a model that accounts for their incomes and expenditures. We will employ one producer, regional distributors, and many direct sales agents. Using locals as vendors will generate economic benefits on top of health benefits, and will ensure that products are sold through peers, a model that is often more effective than NGOs or businesses. The sales revenues should cover material and production costs, so that the campaigns will not need to rely on outside funding. Instead, potential funds from public and social enterprises will be added to the profit from sales and put toward expanding campaigns for further social transformation. The initial logistics and administrative costs of the campaigns, and production and distribution of the first devices will be supported by the UpWater project. After that, the campaigns should be able to sustain themselves.