Can anyone share good examples of businesses partnering to promote sustainable water management?

Photo: SABMiller

2013 is the UN International Year of Water Cooperation, and the theme of cooperation was picked up on World Water Day, last Friday (22 March). We marked the day on Business Fights Poverty with two blogs about how business is getting involved, one by SABMiller (on Water Futures, their partnership with WWF and GIZ focused on local-level action) and one by TechnoServe (on their work in the coffee sector in Ethiopia).

What examples can you share of businesses partnering to promote sustainable water management? What more do you think businesses can do in partnership with others? How can the development sector most effectively engage with business?

I think Steamwhistle Brewery in Toronto has a bit of a reputation for their green water heating and cooling initiatives.


Spring Health is bringing safe drinking water to hard-to-reach communities in northeast India through its innovative kiosk model. Spring Health employees travel by motorcycle to rural villages to purify water tanks with liquid chlorine. The purified drinking water is then sold directly to consumers by local shopowners. The company plans to reach five million people in the next three years through its unique, low-cost distribution model.

The Challenge
  • Of the 325 million people living in rural Eastern India, an estimated 80% have no access to safe drinking water.
  • While there is a growing movement in India to provide clean water through community water systems, most companies require high capital costs ($10,000-$50,000) to build plants with larger delivery capacity (12,000-65,000 liters/day).
  • As a result, these kiosks must be located in villages and towns with a larger population to make the businesses viable. However, the majority of people in Eastern India live in small 200-300 household villages that are currently outside the reach of solutions like these.
The Innovation
  • Spring Health has designed a low-cost model to operate a chain of safe water kiosks in Orissa, a largely rural state in northeastern India.
  • Spring Health uses liquid chlorine to disinfect water at the point of distribution sell to rural consumers at affordable prices. The company uses a motorcycle-based distribution system to deliver liquid chlorine doses into cement water tanks constructed outside of existing retail shops in rural communities. Local shop owners pump water into the tank from shallow wells, sell the water in 10 liter branded containers, and share the revenue with Spring Health.
  • Spring Health is a subsidiary of Windhorse International, a US-based holding corporation founded by Paul Polak, a renowned social entrepreneur who has developed a number of innovative products for customers at the bottom of the pyramid. is working in two rural areas in Ghana: Volta Region around Lake Volta and Upper East Region, which borders Burkina Faso and Togo. Both districts are remote and poor, with less than half of the population unable to access safe water and very few families with access to improved sanitation. The rural areas suffer from many waterborne diseases, including diarrhea. and partner organizations work with communities to construct wells, latrines and biosand filters in Ghana as well as to provide health and hygiene education.

The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture has a database of over 200 Private Public Partnerships (PPP's) aimed at helping small farmers. Several involve water and irrigation. For examplere one between Syngenta and IRRI which distributes 'pani pipes' to rice farmers in Bangladesh, thus improving yields. Type 'water' into the search engine and you will find this and the others

Jonathan Shoham

New Belgium Brewery in Ft. Collins, CO is similar: They have a local reputation for actively focusing on water conservation (and wind energy credits).

Thank you for some really good examples. I'd also be interested to hear from organisations which are currently members of coalitions or partnerships. What do you think are the key challenges in developing successful partnerships and how can they be overcome?

One of the lessons we have learned throught he Water Futures Partnership is to be realistic about everyone's different timescales and expectations. Different organisations, different sectors and different cultures move at different paces which can potentially be a cause of frustration. For example, business sometimes needs some quick wins to demonstrate progress whil broader ecological watershed changes can take years to show results. Understanding this, and other challenges, at the outset can help for a better common understanding and, ultimately, greater progress towards shared objectives.

WaterAid works with many large companies, and just launched a partnership with The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation (TCCAF) on our first project together in Burkina Faso. TCCAF has committed to bringing safe drinking water to 2 million people by 2015, and has successful programs all over the continent. TCCAF sees these projects as true partnerships, and supports water programs far beyond providing funding support. Coca-Cola has been an industry leader in wastewater treatment and reuse as a method for mitigating their impact on the environment. Meanwhile, Coca-Cola bottling plants get involved to support the programs at the local level to provide resources whenever possible. At WaterAid, we're pleased to work with corporations on these types of innovative partnerships that make a real impact. Learn more at

iDE's customers are farmers; very small business owners who need to use water wisely....because it is a very scarce resource in parts of Africa and Asia. These business owners partner with iDE - an organisation which has a specialism in water management technologies for very dry environments.

I agree with Jenny Rhode- iDE has lifted over 17 million people out of poverty with their low-cost appropriate technology products such as the Treadle Pump, the Ceramic Water Filter, Affordable Drip Irrigation and Water Storage systems.
iDE was recently part of a USAID Twitter Chat on this topic. Resources mentioned in the chat were released yesterday. I hope they can be of use to others.

What examples can you share of businesses partnering to promote sustainable water management?

two weeks ago I visited one of the project in the NorthEastern Area of Thailand. Water management changed the life of the whole local community. Giving you a bit of the background. in early 90 You might have heard that most of Thai living in North Eastern of Thailand are poor. Problems lied in the difficult to generate a sustainable income to the family. We didnt have a good water management. Thus the only three things they can grow in the area are casava, sugar cane and rice. Life of the poor farmers depended on luck and natural rain ! Extended problem were working-age population moved into the city to look for a job and left alone the old and the young generation in the village. One who moved into the city either worked in the factory or many of them became sex workers. To tackle PDA ( Population and Community Development Association) have worked together with companies in water management programme. Grundfos LIFELINK is one of the good example provinding technology in the project. Even since then, farmers were no longer limited their productivity but able to grow other type of fruit and earn more.

What more do you think businesses can do in partnership with others?

interms of partnership Standard Charter have given loans to the village to support the kick off funding. After a better water management were in place .. the kick off funding needed for the extension of the farming business.

In my opinion the local government need to accelerate their understanding and role in business engagement. Business can make a great change but with support and monitoring system it will ensure the longterm effect.

How can the development sector most effectively engage with business?

I have been working with numbers of development sector that would like to contribute their role in Private sector engagement. My personal opinion is we need the develop agencies should work closely with government in policy space. I believe they are in the most suitable position.

Your questions were very interested esp the last one .. development sector & business .. I believe at this stage missing middle is what we lack of, someone who link both up or someone who collateralize a well balanced chemistry of both sector. BFP is one of the good example.

Check out this KickStart hip hop video on their MoneyMaker pump.