Start small, stay local - but think big, think global...

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Can technological innovation change the paradigm for potable water supply in rural and other underserved communities?

I strongly agree with prior postings - from my perspective water issues have to be governed locally and the more "local" the better. IFC's Cleaner Technologies Group was set up a few years back to invest in companies innovating in cleantech - including potable water supply. One early investment we made in WaterHealth International is a great example of really pushing water supply management decisions right down to the most immediate level of local government - in India that would be the village panchayat.

WaterHealth International has developed a low-cost, low-maintenance water purification solution that can be tailored to a village's needs and run largely by village recruits. This technological innovation has allowed a break-through in terms of...

a sustainable business model where a micro-utility can be established as a PPP between the panchayat and WaterHealth International.

Right now villagers who collect water from the plant pay user fees of less than 10 paise per litre of purified water – that's about one fifth of a US cent. The micro-utilities can supply from 2,000 to 6,000 people and soon 50 units will be running in India. These little water plants are beginning to create quite a stir and they have the potential to mushroom across India and other continents.

I used to think private sector water meant big utilities - but WaterHealth International is changing that concept. Maybe to solve the big problem of clean drinking water the solution really is to start small....very small.

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