Tried and tested approaches have largely been unsuccessful at increasing uptake of safe drinking water:
In the absence of a regular supply of safe, piped water, there have been a number of initiatives to increase access to safe water in Pakistan and globally, which have largely been unsuccessful in addressing the problem. The salient features of these initiatives and their drawbacks are outlined below:
Household / Point of use of water treatment
Initiatives in household treatment of water involve educating households about treatment methods (e.g. boiling) and increasing supply of cheap technologies such as chlorine tablets and ceramic filters. Our experience, consistent with the academic literature on this topic, suggests that aspects such as inconvenience, poor taste of treatment chemicals like chlorine, and time to treat water contributes to low uptake of safe water. Contrary to common myths, we believe that such barriers are far more important than a lack of knowledge about treatment methods. The challenge is to design solutions that manage to solve for these barriers.
Decentralised water filling stations
Decentralized approaches generally involve the setting up of community kiosks to supply underserved areas with treated water. Given that 20% of our sales are from the plant itself, we have good insight into the limitations of current decentralized models. These are:
1. Individuals often bring in contaminated containers for filling that have often been in use for several years. Even if the water dispensed is WHO compliant, once filled in these containers, it is often no longer fit for human consumption.
2. Community based plants often expect people to come and fill water containers at the plant itself, which limits the catchment size of the population.
Sukoon Water aims to be a source of innovation to turn the tide in the wash sector:
We think that existing decentralized approaches and household treatment approaches should not be written off. Instead, their low uptake provide valuable sources of insight that can inform new delivery models in the water sector. In our work, we seek to learn from these insights, build on the existing knowledge base, and re-imagine the delivery of safe water at the last mile.
1. Developing a deep understanding of the barriers contributing to low uptake of and inconsistent usage of water treatment methods and safe water options available to households.
2. Understanding the sources of of household contamination of stored water (e.g. contaminated ice).
3. Developing a more comprehensive and realistic theory of change (which takes into account these barriers and sources of household contamination) to increase access to and usage of safe drinking water.
4. Developing, testing and refining an innovative delivery model (which leverages this theory of change) that can be scaled across Pakistan to reduce the burden of water borne illness.
WHAT DOES DELIVERY MODEL INNOVATION ENTAIL?
Development of new delivery models entails testing new ways of getting safe water to the last mile and solving for user adoption and appropriate usage. This requires not only in-depth user centered research, but also what we call "implementation research" to prove the operational viability of these models. Both forms of research require us to comprehensively think through the entire value chain of safe water delivery, from treatment to distribution to end-user acceptability. Using a decentralized water treatment plant in Gulshan-e-Sikandarabad Colony, Karachi as our laboratory, we have been innovating across 5 different areas to develop a robust delivery model.