Alison Wedgwood’s goal toward clean water accessibility started with an epiphany as she realized that “far more people in the developing world had mobile phones than plumbing.” This is the idea to apply cellphone technology to help developing countries access clean water. Wedgwood worked with engineer-turned-entrepreneur Rob Hygate and together, they came up with EWater Services Ltd. The team focused on communities in Tanzania, Ghana, and Gambia. EWater Services Ltd service charges users for their water consumption on a pay-per-use model, by setting up pay-as-you-go dispensers in village centers. While clean water will not be made entirely free, the reduced costs and reliability of these sources is a huge step forward for communities lacking reliable access to clean water. The a magnetic tag that is linked to an account; the money collected from EWater Services Ltd goes toward paying the maintenance workers who maintain these village water systems. The average cost for people in these communities is six dollars a year which is very cost-effective for most communities. This is notably less than the cost of an average cell phone, which totals 30 dollars a year—making clean water five times more affordable than a cell phone!
Thus, Wedgewood’s EWater Services Ltd will have an extreme economic benefit. If people spend less time looking and worrying about clean water, they can invest their time and energy into other resources, which will help launch these developing countries to first-world statuses. Wedgewood plans to keep expanding EWater Services Ltd to Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, and Nigeria. To date, EWater Services has benefited over 150,000 people with over 400 village water service centers. What makes EWater Services so revolutionary is its solar panel technology; this solar panel system requires a very low-frequency range, making the product accessible to more rural areas.
One of the UN goals is to have clean water within a 30-minute walk; Wedgewood believes that this is too far; if people can have cell phones to stream movies and download music, then it is possible for every household to have clean water.
Another water activist leading the way in the revolutionary water movement is Ed Peter, who is buying up water rights and leasing them to farmers. Peter is a businessman whose company, Duxton Water, helped turn catastrophic Australian droughts into something profitable.
Peter refers to his company as a “water bank;” many countries (and states like California) have introduced the idea of a water exchange market. Australia has been ahead of the curve in their development with the water exchange. Water can be traded via entitlements with different tiered values, and anyone can purchase the water rights for a profit. Duxton Water acts as a bank in the financier role, “Peter says. It can help farmers remove pricey permanent rights from their balance sheets by buying up rights and renting them back.” Peter sees this solution as a win-win where investors can make money, and farmers get their water. However, much criticism surrounds Duxton; Some argue that reconfiguring the water system, based on economic merit, leaves the most vulnerable without water. Critics also noted that this company profits from people in desperate need of water. They see him as a “water speculator and he sees himself as a financier. Peter argues that the water bank system ensures that the people who need it the most are getting it. Australia’s water bank system has been said to be the best globally, and attributing a numerical value to water is critical to the preservation.
Overall we need more solutions if we are going to fix the water insecurity around the world. Solutions, like one presented by Allison Wedgewood and Ed Peter, offer a glimpse of hope into what the future can provide. However, the fact remains, that millions of vulnerable people lack access to clean water. The CDC says his number is anywhere between 700 million to 800 million. Innovative solutions are going to be instrumental in ensuring that people have clean water. Clean water is not a privilege of the economically advantaged, but a fundamental human rights issue.