Decentralized water purification
Video credit: Andrew Ndai
**Mid-term report project Tap 21, date: 9-10-2018**
The mid-term report in a few words: a lot of effort, many interested potential entrepreneurs/organizations that want to set up a Safe Water Enterprise (SWE), very few push ahead. Results are so far not positive, but we really can’t conclude yet that the proposed business concept (decentralized water purification by local entrepreneurs in areas with high salt or fluoride levels and selling purified water via water ATMs) idea may not work.
So far we have been approached by about 12-15 parties that showed serious interest in setting up an SWE or to use water ATMs for existing purification systems. We talked with them, we did send information, but in most cases it did not come to setting up a Tap21 water point. Mainly due to the following reasons:
- Afraid of adopting, and investing in something which is not yet proven
- Bureaucracy - politics
- Unsecure how bottled water market will develop (will plastic be banned? Will high excise duties on bottled water be lifted (answer, yes for the moment, but excise duty might come back tomorrow).
- The Kenya Bureau of Standards took forever to make a decision about issuing a license fo the intended model of water purification. Informally we have heard ‘everything is okay’, but the license is still not issued
- Lack of money to invest – The subsidies that can be provided make the investment costs high, but the Aqua Etiam equipment is a relatively expensive, partly neutralizing the benefit of the discount.
Notwithstanding the above, we eventually came to agreement and implementation with 2 partners (Sheepcare Community Centre and Samaritan Children’s Home. See video https://drive.google.com/file/d/1vz8dlCSOSbCj0DCgZvowfVlwbVpY0wQ6/view, see minute 3.30-4.10) and very soon (1-3 weeks) we hope to reach agreement and even implementation with:
- Naivasha Health Park Ltd. This is an Indian owned company that is going to provide purified water (via an Indian RO plant) to a petrol station, a carwash and some shops, but he also wants to set up 3 purified water kiosks for the nearby town Karagita. Maji Milele is asked to manage the water purification process and distribution and we seem to come an agreement about this. The intention is to manage this project under the name Maji Milele, but this is not a franchise formula, because we will manage it ourselves, provided we really come to terms.
- Church World Service - Merille community. This is not really urban and it is not entrepreneur investing in water, but:
• A new very interesting water purification technology from Solar Water Solutions (SWS) is being used. SWS is a Finnish company that provides RO technology based on solar energy and without inverters, meaning that after the investment costs, operational costs and concerns (invertors break down and are expensive) are very low
• Church World Service will manage the project themselves and the intention is to manage the project in a commercially viable way and to eventually hand it over to a local entrepreneur/entrepreneurial group.
We are furthermore still in touch with 3 other parties, but it is rather unclear if we will be able to come to a deal.
- One is the established company Purefresh in Naivasha town who is already selling purified water and he has an interest in prepaid meters.
The other two parties are:
- a private person in Mombasa, who really wants to start, but only if he sees that KEBS gives out permits
- KPAG, an NGO in Homabay. The NGO has in cooperation with the Homabay County government several Aqua Etiam RO machines, but there are problems with implementation:
o Machines are not or not fully paid for
o One RO machine was installed and dispensing was being done via a Susteq prepaid meter, which was installed by a third party and stopped working almost immediately after installation. Maji Milele repaired the meter in April.
o Other reasons that are unclear to us even after trying to get more information.
With regard to the first 2 projects being implemented, we unfortunately don’t see very positive results. Both projects are rather near to other (Kayole, Nairobi – 10 minutes walk from each other). One project has an Aqua Etiam RO plant and of course has a Susteq prepaid meter, the other one received a plant from elsewhere, but wanted to dispense the water via Susteq prepaid meters. Consumption of purified water at both places is still very limited. This is disappointing, but also interesting:
- Own Maji Milele research showed that about 1 of every 3 households was buying bottled water and nearly everybody said they would buy purified water from a dispenser if this water would be much cheaper. This was later basically confirmed by external independent research from the University of Nairobi. Several people from the University got training on collecting and interpreting data collected via AKVO tools. For conclusions see footnote below and the report itself.
- Even after considerable marketing via the church, via Health Workers, via free water containers, leaflets, etcetera the uptake is very limited. Maji Milele stimulated the client (Sheepcare) to do some research which was done, but even though the water is very much cheaper than bottled water, uptake is still limited and people still refer to price as main reason for lack of interest. Other factors are distance, ‘purified water is not an immediate need and some people feel the new model may demolish the business of other people that sell “fresh” water.
- Lack of trust was not mentioned, but interestingly, we heard from the successful company Purefresh in Naivasha, that they bottle water in order to create credibility to purified water that is being dispensed. Bottling water is for them not very important in terms of turnover, but bottling water did, according to Purefresh, contribute tremendously in consumer trust. Consumers that can buy bottled water from Purefresh at high prices were later becoming interested in buying purified water at low prices via dispensing machines. Sheepcare therefore requested Maji Milele if they can also bottle water and we have agreed on that on the conditions that all guidelines for safe water bottling will be complied with. Just last week Sheepcare start ed with bottling water. If this eventually is going to be a success factor for buying purified water from ATMs is still to be seen.
Despite some setbacks we do believe in a positive outcome of the Tap21 project. The candidates mentioned in this report give us confidence we will implement the project in line with the original plan to set up the intended number of Tap21 kiosks.