Thursday, 28 April 2011

5 challenges to getting water treatment to the people who need it the most

There are millions of people without access to clean drinking water, yet some of these people are even harder to reach due to a number of factors. There are 5 key challenges in getting water treatment technologies to the most remote communities, they are:

1. How to reach them?
2. Who pays?
3. Do the conditions permit water treatment?
4. How to attain effective distribution?
5. What happens after installation?

1. Reaching the people who need water the most
Even though communication and information sharing has been made easier by the Internet and the World Wide Web, it is still not accessible in many areas where more basic needs must be met. Matching the appropriate technology with the community that has water treatment needs is therefore a big challenge. On one hand it can be challenging for an organization to locate the remotest of locations, and on the other hand it is a challenge for the local communities to reach the organizations.

Solution: Many charitable organizations work at the local level and have the proper information channels established in order to address the issue.

2. Who pays for the systems?
Money is often a big hindrance in purchasing water treatment systems in what is considered poorer communities. In the short run, investments can be too heavy a burden on these communities, and therefore the technology never reaches the people who need it. This ironic situation places organizations in a sticky dilemma as their technology is able to solve one of the most pressing global matters, yet it is still a fact that production comes at a cost.

Solution: Micropayments, credits and funding.'s water credits are a very good example of trying to overcome this obstacle.

3. Is it feasible to install a system in the local environment?
Water needs may be one thing, and whether or not there is sufficient electricity to power water treatment systems is another. Some systems require extreme amounts of electricity, however there are some solutions that can function at much lower levels of consumption. Another problem can be the terrain and conditions of the environment. Some systems require controlled environments if they are to achieve anywhere near their prescribed levels of water purity.

Solution: Solar powered water treatment systems are a solution which can be powerful enough to treat water for a whole community. The only obstacle is the local weather.

4. Effective Distribution
The water crisis is a global phenomenon, requiring efforts from a network that spans most of the globe if there is to be any chance of changing the grim trends. This global network needs to engage local enthusiasts that have the persistence in trying to connect buyers and sellers of water treatment. It is not as simple as going to a global charity organization and saying "Hey, we have this great machine. It will solve all water treatment needs. How many do you need in each country?". If only that was possible...

Solution: Networks of individuals that have the reach, persistence and engagement in local communities in order to establish appropriate distribution relationships between companies and purchasing bodies.

5. What happens after installation?
Unfortunately, many organizations install a machine and get out once the initial sale is completed. This leaves a community with a useless machine, that nobody knows how to operate. Then there is also maintenance of the machine. What relationship is established in order to ensure that the machine is a long term investment, rather than a one-off cost. Finally, who administers the distribution of water?

Solution: Providing a proper education with any water treatment system is a must, else it would be much like providing a first time computer user with a laptop and no instruction book, telling them to go to the internet and download a brochure. That would never end well. Maintenance needs to be planned, as some systems require more maintenance than others, while some locations may also require more often maintenance due to a high level of TDS. Lastly, a community that suddenly has direct access to clean water changes its usage patterns, and therefore usage needs to be administrated to make sure that spoiling activity does not occur.

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