The WATA electrochlorinator device is packaged in the overall and sustainable WATASOL approach.
WATASOL is combining health education, technical training, and creation of an economic model based on sodium hypochlorite and chlorinated water production and sales. The objective is to make safe water treatment an accessible and profitable activity for communities of developing countries.
Where product/service is being used
The WATA is manufactured in Switzerland and disseminated in 45 countries. Promising business models are being implemented in Mali, Guinea Conakry, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Nepal, Cambodia, Pakistan, Haiti and Bolivia.
In each country, the chlorine is produced locally and marketed under different names: Uzima (DRC), Chlore C (Guinea Conakry), AquaCleanDrops (Pakistan), Aqua+ (India).
The problem it attempts to solve or address
Some 783 million people have no access to improved drinking water sources. According to the WHO, « the lack of access to safe drinking water, combined with inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene, is an important contributing factor to the 1.8 million annual deaths from diarrheal diseases. »
Chlorination, which consists in adding active chlorine (sodium hypochlorite) in water, is the most common method used for disinfecting of drinking water. Active chlorine destroys or inactivates most pathogenic microorganisms, including parasites, bacteria and viruses with a very high reliability. The WHO estimates that chlorination is the most secure, effective and cheapest option. Generally speaking, chlorine is not produced in low-income countries but imported in the form of tablets or bleach, at relatively high cost. A study published in January 2008 by the UNICEF show that household-based interventions were about twice as effective in preventing diarrhoeal disease (47%) than improved wells, boreholes and communal stand pipes (27%). It is thus fundamental to find solution to enable population to take over their drinking water problem in a perennial and self-sufficient way.
Aware of the need to introduce simple and affordable water treatment methods at household level, Antenna Technologies has developed a line of WATA devices. Design is also thought of locally in order to make the product desirable.
WATA is a handy and robust device composed of a plastic case and titanium.
The device requires water, salt and electricity. When immersed, and connected to a reliable source of electricity (solar / grid), a process of electrolysis takes place, converting the saline solution (sodium chloride) into active chlorine (sodium hypochlorite) at 6 g/L.
The resulting solution can be used for drinking water disinfection (1L of chlorine per 4,000 L of contaminated water) or disinfection of food preparation materials, premises and other equipments. The concentrated chlorine is similar to Dakin’s solution, a neutral disinfectant, and can be used directly for cleaning wounds.
Specifically designed for the needs of developing countries, these devices give even the poorest of the poor an affordable solution to produce their own drinking water. Without the initial investment, the cost price for one litre of active chlorine concentrate is below € 0,01. Excluding shipping, investment costs for the Mini WATA are € 125, Standard WATA € 320, and Maxi WATA € 3,200.
Several business models around the WATA technology are being tested in different countries. We started our business models with NGOs and now also work with social entreprises.
In Guinea Conakry, DRC, India, Nepal and Pakistan, the chlorine produced locally is sold in flasks to the population. Tinkisso-Antenna is now selling chlorine to 600,000 beneficiaries and targets to double this by 2016 (national scale).
Another promising example is Springhealth’s business model which has spread out using existing village shops (Kirana shops) and built a 1,000 to 3,000 litres water tank to sell chlorinated water as a service. The ultimate objective is to reach 20’000 villages in 2020. By the end of 2013, the social enterprise aims to be selling safe water in branded 10 litre jerry cans in 173 villages with 87,000 clients.
If 70% of all WATA disseminated worldwide were used on an average 4 hours per day, we estimate that enough chlorine could be produced to treat over 65 million of litres of water, enough for more than 11 million beneficiaries.
The ideal strategy of scaling-up safe water is a combination of public and private intervention: a) thorough, intelligent and massive publicly supported awareness creation should remove the demand constraints and b) setting up well designed supply chains and marketing strategies to remove the supply constraints. Ideally, these two interventions should be pursued in the same place in what we call an integrated approach.
The major challenge for the replication of successful business models is institutional – finding the right institutions that have internally the right mix of commercial and social orientation is difficult. Here are some lessons learned:
- Use wannabe messages, not mustdo’s
- Max your consumer loyalty with a range of options
- Social marketing and marketing must be interlinked
- Becoming sustainable is a matter of good margins
Business models can be designed in a way to make the delivery of safe water financially sustainable, provided that sales can reach sufficiently high volumes.
Collaboration with the public sector
Combine school interventions with community training and private sector initiatives.
Carole de Bazignan