Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Yes We Can: Solving the World's Water Crisis

How entrepreneurs are tackling the issue of clean water scarcity.

by Lara Smallman

The cold, hard facts – 

Before you get to the end of this paragraph, a child will have died from a water-related disease. That’s one death every 20 seconds. 3.575 million people are dying each year from water-related diseases. According to End Water Poverty A staggering 783 million people lack access to safe water supplies, that's approximately one in eight people.

'I've heard this all before,' -

Some, if not all of you, are thinking right about now. Indeed, we're bombarded by facts and figures; sadly talk of concrete action tends to be much thinner on the ground. That’s where this very platform comes in to play. We are here to focus on potential solutions being developed or discussed across Europe.

And so, with statistics out of the way, it’s time to get down to business. The serious business of providing safe drinking water to every single person on the planet, and in so doing, preventing millions of deaths.

Saving lives

I came across the Life Straw, an invention intended for use in the developing world. It makes safe what is otherwise harmful, undrinkable water. It has received praise, and deservedly so. In certain situations it does the job, and does it well.

It does however have its limitations, namely the fact that there is no storage capacity whatsoever. Considering just how far people in developing countries have to walk to reach a water source, it is a great shame that there is no provision to return home with the newly purified, safe-to-drink water.

Reflecting on this product, its good intentions, but ultimate limitations, I soon began recalling a piece of television from a few years back...

Five years ago, two young British entrepreneurs cautiously made their way into the Dragon’s Den (a prime-time British TV show, which gives inventors/business people a chance to pitch for investments.) Armed with nothing more than an A-board showing their product, a water purification system called ‘Midomo', in 2D, the two set about explaining their vision. 

You can watch that here:

Copyright Midomo.

With what seems at first glance to be the answer to the prayers of the 884 million people without access to clean water, I wrote to Amanda Jones (who you'll see in the video below), to find out why, five years on, their product isn't a main stay of every household in the developing world. Asked if money, or rather, lack of, were to blame - Amanda explained it is the 'primary reason'. 'Getting funding for this kind of thing', she added, 'is a real challenge'. She also put delays down to the inevitable naivety involved in designing a product from scratch. 

Copyright Midomo.
In developing countries, it is usually young girls, aged 8 who take sole responsibility for fetching the family's water. With that in mind, it makes perfect sense to design the product for child-use, or does it? A bunch of foreigners turning up promising an end to backbreaking work and handing over a product intended for children only, may not be the best idea. Obstacles such as this one continue to rear their ugly head every now and then, but Amanda and her team, who have put in over 60 hours a week for the last three years, remain undeterred in their efforts to get this product out of factories and storage facilities, and into homes across the developing world.

Is 'Midomo' the answer to the world's water crisis? from Lara Smallman on Vimeo.

It has been announced today that we have met target C of Millennium Development Goal number 7 : ‘Halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation'. There is no denying that this is fantastic news, the figure of 783 million lacking access to safe water, however, remains. In order for that shocking figure to fall, Midomo must become a main stay in homes across the developing world.

With the support of a number of leading experts in microbiology and international development, and an ingenious way of raising additional funds for the unit, I for one can't wait to see where Midomo is at twelve, or even six months from now, and what Red Button Design - a company whose tagline is 'design against dependency' - comes up with next.

More information:

1 comment:

  1. The design appears interesting and I'm guessing the rolling of the wheels develops the weight in the tanks to purify the water through reverse osmosis.I would be intrigued to see the internals and how everything functions.I likewise think about whether there is a simple approach to operate it without needing to roll that huge of a weight of water around?For example,imagine a scenario in which the water supply is a short separation and the rolling of the wheels doesn't channel all the water.Do you need to then roll it around in a circle until it completes the filtration process?
    new type of water purification here