In some parts of the world, getting access to arsenic-free safe drinking water is difficult. Drinkwell Systems looks to overcome this obstacle by offering systems that sanitise water supply and simultaneously create water entrepreneurs.
A 2010 study found that between 35 – 77 million people in Bangladesh are exposed to arsenic through drinking water and that ongoing exposure to the chemical element was associated with increased mortality. A result of a campaign to spread clean drinking water throughout the country in the 1970s (with millions of wells being dug, many in areas where arsenic naturally occurs), groundwater contamination in Bangladesh is so high that it was labelled a health emergency by the World Health Organization in 2000.
Kolkata-based social enterprise Drinkwell Systems has developed a business model that provides arsenic-free water to people. Mindful of the fact that many water projects require ongoing infrastructure maintenance and community input to ensure long-term stability, the team sells water sanitising systems to micro-entrepreneurs who are then responsible for the system’s upkeep.
Established in 2013, the organisation looks to give locals the tools to solve the water problem while also providing opportunities towards financial independence. Drinkwell Systems sells each system – which uses a resin-based regenerable adsorbent to remove arsenic – for 8,000 USD. Franchisees then sell the clean water that the system produces and keep the sales profits (although they must pay a monthly service charge for onsite visits from a Drinkwell technician). The idea was born out of the need to find ways to ensure that tools and techniques for development that are implemented are not forgotten about or neglected once the team that introduced them leaves.
The project sites a statistic from the UN that states that 50 percent of all water projects in developing regions fail because communities have not or cannot assume responsibility for system maintenance and repair while a 2009 article by The Guardian stated that as many as 50,000 clean water supply points (such as wells) across Africa are not being properly maintained and therefore don’t work. Giving franchisees ownership over their system and ensuring a technician or engineer does a check up once a month helps to overcome this obstacle. Franchisees of Drinkwell Systems have a financial incentive that helps ensure the longevity of the project.
The systems also do not require electricity to run and are currently deployed in 200 locations in South Asia. The organisation is active in areas where arsenic taints local water supply, implementing its filtration mechanisms to provide safe, clean drinking water to surrounding communities.
For more information, head to their website.