What is the social and/or ecological challenge?
The Dhaka Water Supply & Sewerage Authority (DWASA) faces serious quality and illegal withdrawal challenges as it works towards its mission of providing safe drinking water to the approximately 17 million people across Greater Dhaka. Around 700 water points across Dhaka are uncontrolled, allowing "water sharks" to occupy the tap connections and illegally sell water. DWASA estimates its water losses at 40% at such points and is currently unable to monitor the proper functioning of its water pumps. Furthermore, WaterAid Bangladesh studies found 100% of DWASA water provided to slums to be contaminated with fecal matter. Another challenge for low-income households is the high cost and uncertain availability of the illegal and unsafe water they buy.
The social entrepreneurial approach
Drinkwell's value proposition involves offering safe drinking water while minimising water loss and increasing revenue to water utilities. Its solution includes a) a cost-effective and safe filtration technology with an integrated water flow and quality monitoring solution, b) a turnkey water ATM booth allowing cashless collection of drinking water and c) a long-term operation and maintenance service.
Drinkwell's systems-based approach is innovative in three ways: it is (1) appropriate – low energy intensity, longevity, minimal environment waste; (2) based on scalable technology – drinking water sensing, cashless electronic card dispensing, and cloud-based reporting of water flow and quality; (3) cost-effective – Drinkwell's direct to customer model eliminates the 15-20% margin typically charged by dealers and middlemen and passes on the savings to customers, thereby maximising the impact per dollar spent.
The economics of the model allow Drinkwell to turn a profit and grow its operations and DWASA to generate sufficient revenue to install more units. Its business approach (with the turnkey model) makes the solution attractive to other water authorities.
Goals and expected impact
By December 2020 the overall goal of this project is to have 300 operating systems providing over 1.5 million litres of safe drinking water daily for 2 million people, while creating 600 jobs, reducing system loss to a single digit rate from 40% and saving households up to 30-50% on their water costs.