The business model
The Safe Water Enterprise (SWE) is a sustainable solution to supply rural and peri-urban communities with safe drinking water. The concept combines a low-cost and low-maintenance membrane-based water treatment technology with an entrepreneurial approach for the sustainable management of the utility.
Small kiosks are equipped with mobile SkyHydrant water filters, which remove suspended solids, bacteria, and viruses from water with hair-thin membrane fibers. The filtration process operates without electricity, requiring no grid connectivity. The kiosk itself consists of prefabricated, high-quality structural kiosk modules which can be flexibly deployed in remote areas.
Water from contaminated sources is purified using the SkyHydrant filter and supplied to residents in clean white jerrycans. These water containers are cleaned before every refill, in order to prevent recontamination. The purified water is sold at an affordable price, yet earnings are sufficient to cover operational costs.
In addition to expanding the supply of safe drinking water, the SWEs create income opportunities for members and local communities. The operation of the SWE itself is performed by individuals from the local community. In order to prepare them for the new responsibility as kiosk operators, eligible individuals receive technical as well as business training.
The Safe Water Enterprises are aiming to become a motor of development for the entire community. Therefore community trainings are conducted to encourage further entrepreneurial activities around the kiosk. Community trainings on water, health and hygiene are conducted as well as social marketing activities, in order to further increase uptake of safe drinking water and corresponding hygiene practices.
The Safe Water Enterprise uses the SkyHydrant filtration technology developed by the SkyJuice Foundation to purify surface water (dams, creeks, rivers, streams, lakes) or ground water (wells), and make it safe for drinking according to WHO standards. The SkyHydrant significantly removes turbidity, biological contaminates including bacteria, viruses, protozoa, parasites and other pathogens. The SkyHydrant does not remove salt or dissolved chemicals and minerals.
The ultrafiltration system uses gravity to press the raw water through hair-thin membrane fibers. It can purify up to 1,000 liters of water per hour without electrical power and can thus supply up to 500 households with clean drinking water. Maintenance is done through a simple daily backwash, which can be performed manually.
The SkyHydrant can be set up in a number of different ways to best accommodate the needs of each site. Ideally, the raw water can flow via gravity into a 1,000 liter header tank. At other sites, a mechanical or hand pump might be required. Water flows through the SkyHydrant filter via gravity. It is collected in a clean water tank, from where it can be dispensed to the community.
Globally, 663 million people - 1 in 10 - lack access to safe water , 48 per cent of which are living In Sub-Saharan Africa . The situation is particularly dramatic in rural areas where many people rely on raw water to satisfy their basic needs, including water for human consumption. The untreated water, however, often carries life-threatening diseases such as diarrhea, cholera and typhoid. Every year, 530000 children below the age of 5 are dying from diarrhea illnesses alone . In Kenya, an estimated 19,000 children under the age of 5 die annually as a result of diarrhea .
The Safe Water Enterprises are designed to meet this urgent need for access to safe water as well as to provide water related health knowledge through trainings and social marketing. Through their community based social enterprise approach, the SWEs are designed to provide a long-term sustainable solution at the kiosk level.
Siemens Stiftung and SkyJuice Foundation believe that the SWE model has the potential to significantly improve the livelihood of rural and peri-urban populations. This is why they have chosen to actively engage in the implementation of several SWE projects in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Together with selected local partners such as SOS Children’s Villages, AMREF (African Medical and Research Foundation), the Hunger Project and SWAP Kenya, sixteen SWEs have been built up to date.
Each Safe Water Enterprise can provide up to 500 families with safe drinking water on a daily basis. It can thus significantly improve the health situation of entire communities. Trainings on water, health and hygiene are conducted in schools and the surrounding communities in order to increase awareness on the importance of safe drinking water and the respective hygiene practices.
At the same time, SWEs open up new perspectives through a number of income generating possibilities for kiosk operators and members of the community. This is supported by training sessions which foster social entrepreneurship and technical understanding. There are currently 16 Safe Water Enterprises in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, each of them operated by 2 kiosk operators and a water committee.
The business model of the SWE is designed to allow its owners to cover their operational costs by selling purified water. Even though the water is sold at an affordable price to the community, financial sustainability is guaranteed because there is almost no cost for maintenance while the filter is capable of treating up to 10,000 L of water per day.
- Number of SWEs built to date (June 2016): 16
- Number of jobs created: SWEs are providing more than 70 people with an income, among which 20 Kenyans have permanent jobs as kiosk operators.
- Number of people with access to improved water: up to 2500 people per kiosk.