Since our founding in 2006, Safe Water Network has partnered with leading organizations from the public and private sectors to continuously refine the enterprise model for market-based, community water supply. These partnerships support innovative approaches to address financial, operational and consumer challenges. For example, in India we developed a remote monitoring system that captures real-time data that is continuously transmitted to technical staff who can respond to potential problems. We recently received support from two innovative partners, the Stone Family Foundation and UNICEF, which go beyond traditional infrastructure to test new ways to bring water to those in need.
In Ghana, energy constitutes 34% of the operating costs of our H2Ome! Water Stations, and energy prices have increased over 140% since 2014. This significantly impacts a Station’s ability to consistently provide affordable water to communities in need while generating enough revenue to cover costs. Until recently, solar power’s high capital costs have not made it an attractive alternative to grid energy. But a combination of falling capital costs for solar, rising energy costs, and increasingly unreliable energy grids have made solar a viable alternative.
Recognizing these trends, the Stone Family Foundation has provided a $250,000 grant to Safe Water Network to support the retrofitting of 35 Stations in Ghana with solar power. This project will result in solar being the primary power source for these Stations, backed-up by grid energy, batteries, or diesel generators. We will collect and analyze data on how solar decreases costs and increases efficiencies to contribute knowledge to the sector, making it easier for others to replicate and more people to gain access to safe drinking water around the world.
Safe Water Network also received its first grant from UNICEF for $260,000 to extend water distribution networks to schools and health facilities, assess the spare parts supply chain of small water enterprises, and increase private sector participation in household water treatment and storage.
This grant from UNICEF enables Safe Water Network to create new knowledge for the sector, while deepening our working relationships with the Community Water and Sanitation Agency, local governments and community leadership. As with all of our Stations, we enter into Build, Operate, and Transfer agreements that ensures development of local skills to maintain the station operations. We also deliver health and hygiene messages to drive demand for safe water.
Our partners provide us with the resources to establish stations, but funding that allows us try new approaches spurs ideas and improves our approach. With support from partners like the Stone Family Foundation and UNICEF, we will continue to create evidence that small water enterprises are an important part of the solution to the global drinking water crisis.