Ana Escalante

Unclogging the Water and Sanitation Crisis

water 2Safe tap water is a luxury that many people in the world do not enjoy. In many developing countries, it is not safe to drink or use the tap water. The Center for Disease Control website of the United States government has health information about every country in the world, and it’s interesting to see how many countries fall under the advice: “Drink only bottled or boiled water, or carbonated (bubbly) drinks in cans or bottles.”

Bottled water is expensive, of course, and people living at the BoP often cannot afford it. World Resources Institute’s research in The Next 4 Billion: Market Size and Business Strategy at the Base of the Pyramid showed that low-income customers pay anywhere from eight to sixteen times more for bottled or trucked water than they would for a local, public utility (page 58). If this isn?t a BoP penalty, then I don?t know what is.Access to clean drinking water is a concern world-wide–but it is not the sole responsibility of government to provide it. The Next 4 Billion report concluded that there is a clear willingness to pay for clean water in the BoP. However, even if there is a willingness to pay, access to such services is not widespread, especially in rural areas. What the world needs are effective and innovative ideas on how to get these services to the people in the BoP, and to deliver them. Ashoka’s Changemakers has partnered with The Global Water Challenge to launch a collaborative competition to discuss and discover new solutions:

“Global Water Challenge is dedicated to finding solutions to the water and sanitation crises. We believe that we have both the resources and the will to live in a world in which everyone can drink clean water, and use a safe toilet. It is our goal to find and encourage ideas and individuals, wherever they may be, so that every school, every clinic, every home, every community, without regard to geography and income, has access to these basic needs.”

The Global Water Challenge competition started on January 9, and entries can be submitted until March 26. The competition is searching for the most innovative approaches to providing access to safe drinking water and sanitation in a world-wide, scalable way. Even if you don?t have an idea of your own that you would like to propose, you could still participate in the online dialogue and forum.

I browsed through the entries that are already up on the site, and there are a couple of really interesting ideas; please check them out. The entries are coming from a wide range of countries, including Cameroon, Uganda, Ecuador, Indonesia, France, and the United States. They are also coming from a wide-range of sectors; there are entries from the private sector, non-profits, governments, religious organizations and more.

NextBillion encourages our readers to apply to this competition, join the discussion and vote for a winning entry once the competition judges decide the finalists on April 25!