3 Clever Alternatives to Water Privatization

 In News

Last week we looked at why outright water privatization was a bad idea. In this post we’ll be looking at some water privatization alternatives:


This Indian project takes a village-by-village approach to water provision, pledging to deliver water “to the last mile”. A water outlet is established in a village on a pay-as-you-use basis, with part of the profits reinvested to open other outlets in other villages. What is particularly innovative about Sarvajal is the ‘Water ATM’ system, which allows poor villagers to buy water in small, manageable quantities. Having a machine-based output also bypasses issues which can occur with human divisions in Indian life. Different customers from different backgrounds can all have a reliable point of sale.

Since beginning in 2008 they claim to have served 200 million litres of water to 75,000 regular customers. Not bad.

Water For Humans

Based in Seattle with projects in Central and South America, Water for Humans tackles the provision of drinking water, but with a real focus on sanitation. High on their agenda are the 2.4 billion people globally without adequate sanitation who are susceptible to “waterborne diseases such as diarrhea, cholera, typhoid and parasite infections”. Current projects include one in Oaxaca, Mexico, where Water for Humans are helping to educate locals living in the rainforest about a number of water-efficient lifestyle techniques, such as (among others):

  • How to harvest rainwater as it drips onto their homes during the rainy season
  • Dry latrines which allow human manure (humanure!) to be re-used in agriculture
  • Improved irrigation practices

Going further, locals are also being assisted with finding a more profitable way of manufacturing and selling their coffee beans, showing Water for Humans’ commitment to overhauling the structure of a community from top to bottom to get the most out of their H2O.

Ideas At Work 

In 2012 Ideas at Work (IaW) were estimated to provide $1.91-$3.51 of actual social value for their customers for every $1 invested (US dollars). Stating on their website that “IaW uses a business approach to fulfill its social goals”, this social enterprise puts its faith in innovative yet affordable technology and delivers it to rural Cambodia. Simply by making uncomplicated tech available to people with limited resources, IaW have made a significant difference to over a quarter of a million people. All their pumps really do is enable water to be extracted from ground wells cleanly and safely. Like Water for Humans, their vision goes beyond water provision and they actively assist their customers in building a good credit history with local banks.

The beauty of these projects lies in their simplicity. While a central part of each organisation’s work is delivering new technology to places it has not yet reached, the technology itself isn’t game-changing; and yet, it could be world-changing, and is certainly life-saving. All each organization does is raise a little capital and see how far it can go with good people behind it and good ideas in front. Looking at examples such as these, the looming water crisis doesn’t seem so intimidating. The ideas are there: All we need now are the people to get behind them.

John McLean is one of our online collaborators. You can follow him on Twitter: @billdoesjudo 
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