1.8 million people die each year from preventable waterbourne disease - 90% are children under the age of 5. (third leading cause of death world-wide).
• In Africa, 700,000 people die each year from waterborne diseases.
• Water purification techniques used in high-incomenations are neither economically nor technically feasible in developing countries.
• As a result, there is a critical need for low-cost, appropriate water purification methods.
Community Water Solutions (CWS) is a not-for-profit social enterprise that partners with rural communities in developing countries to establish sustainable water treatment businesses. These businesses are owned and operated by the communities that they serve, and use simple, affordable technologies to enable the treatment, distribution and storage of clean, safe drinking water. The maintenance and operation of these water treatment businesses is funded by revenue from the sale of drinking water, while the capital necessary to establish them is donated by CWS.
To date, CWS has successfully implemented water treatment businesses in 26 communities in Ghana, providing reliable sources of clean water to over 15,400 people.
The CWS model is based on two components: 1.) We use low-cost, community-scale water treatment and household safe storage solutions to ensure that the water stays safe and clean while users transport it and store it in their homes. 2.) We use a hands-on approach to engaging communities as owners, operators and customers to ensure comprehensive community access to safe water, sustained use and lasting social change.
Our implementation process has five main steps. First, we identify potential villages. If a village meets our criteria for size, leadership structure and current water source(s), then we will meet with local leaders, to explain our work and ask if they would like to partner with our organization. Once accepted, we then work with members of the community to build a water treatment center. CWS provides the capital equipment needed for the center, which we purchase locally, while the community provides the labor. Next, we select and train individuals from the village (typically women who are nominated by the village elders) who will run the water business. We teach these individuals how to use locally available technologies to treat the water from their community’s water source. Additionally, we provide financial training to ensure profits are properly handled and enough funds are directed toward perpetuating the business. Finally, we open for business and monitor both the quality and the amount of the water being sold.
What truly makes the CWS idea new and innovative is that we implement for-profit water businesses that are owned and operated by the communities we serve and use low-cost local technologies. This distinctive combination empowers people in rural areas to take control of their own water quality. As a result CWS is uniquely positioned to provide a sustainable source of safe drinking water in rural areas.
Many organizations are working to solve the water crisis; however, other entities each exclude one or more of the pieces of the CWS model and thus do not offer sustainable, scalable safe drinking water solutions for the very bottom of the pyramid. CWS believes that by empowering local people through low-cost, for-profit, community owned solutions we can offer uniquely sustainable sources of safe water.
This winter I will be going to Ghana with three other fellows, where we will be responsible for executing a CWS water business in a new village. This business will provide the village with a permanent source of safe drinking water! All funds raised will go directly to making this possible.