Safe drinking water for all

Safe drinking water for all

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$250,000 - $500,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Our objective is to provide safe drinking water to millions of villagers, in many countries, for an affordable price (0,01 $/litre) and in a sustainable manner (the economic model being a social business one where every production sites as well as the supporting infrastructure finance themselves from the water sales).

About You
1001 fontaines pour demain
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Section 1: About You
First Name


Last Name


Section 2: About Your Organization
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?


Organization Name

1001 fontaines pour demain

Organization Phone

+33 612 11 08 23

Organization Address

8, rue de la Porte Blanche 92430 Marnes La Coquette

Organization Country
How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Your idea
Country your work focuses on

, BA

What makes your innovation unique?

The proposed solution is based on a two-fold vision :

1. a combination of two simple technologies (ultraviolet water treatment powered by solar energy) in a simple, solid and easy-to-manage process (the simplicity of the purification process enables each Treatment Center to produce 2,000-6,000 litres of drinking water per day - the minimal requirements of a population of 1,000-3,000 people),

2. an "entrepreneurial" operating model ("Small Private Operator"), based on standard economics (cost recovery), ensuring the sustainability of this water provision. In each village, an economic micro-activity of drinking water production is created, the role of this entrepreneur/operator being then to produce the purified water (in 20-litre bottles) and to sell those bottles within the village, at a price low enough (0.01 $ per litre) to be affordable by the people of the village, but high enough to cover his livelihood as well as the maintenance costs of his production unit.

These village-centered entrepreneurs are supported by a regional platform which manages, on their behalf, processes such as consumables and spare parts supply chain management or water quality control. Here again, sustainability is guaranteed, the platform costs being covered by an assistance fee paid by every production unit in exchange of the provided services ("franchise" model).

Do you have a patent for this idea?

Tell us about the social impact of your innovation. Please include both numbers and stories as evidence of this impact

As of March 2010, 30 drinking water production centers have been set-up in North-West Cambodia, serving 30,000 beneficiaries during the dry season. 80 full-time jobs have been created for running these 30 micro-enterprises, plus 15 at the technical support platform level.

Furthermore, through a specific Sponsorship Program, we deliver, every day, in the primary schools of the villages where we are located as well as in children homes, totally safe drinking water to approximately 12,000 children, these children for whom water-borne diseases have the worst consequences.

The main interest that is mentioned by beneficiaries concerns children’s health issues, particularly the youngest, who are most vulnerable to water-borne diseases. Impact of drinking safe water is spectacular. For instance, in a children home managed by a French NGO in Sisophon (hosting 400 children), typhoïd fever occurrences have dropped from 14 per month, before creating this service (2005) to none since 2006.

Furthermore, beneficiaries’ interest is not limited to getting sick less often. Othe main arguments mentioned by beneficiaries are the following:

- Children can go to school – as the main reason for absenteism at school is diarrhoea –, children for whom attending school represents the only chance of securing a better future than their parents one day,

- Buying safe drinking water everyday is actually interesting from an economical point of view as for each family the annual cost of water turns out to be much lower than medical expenses related to water-borne diseases – i.e. medical examinations and medicines cost, not to mention income losses due to inability to work.

Problem: Describe the primary problem(s) that your innovation is addressing

Almost four billion persons live, in this world, with less than one euro per day, and nearly three billion of them do not benefit the 50 litres/day/person recognized as the definition of « access to drinkable water ». 84 % of this population, 900 million individuals, live in rural areas, with no other choice than drinking … swamp water.

Nearly 4,000 children die, every day, because of water-borne diseases, and it seems to us totally worthless to undertake any nutrition improvement effort without, at first, securing the largest nutriment they ingest : water.

In tropical countries, such as Cambodia, water availability is not an issue, water being abundant either in surface (through ponds or rivers) or underground through private or communitarian wells. But the actual issue is the quality of this water, quality which can be coped with for many usages of this water (such as for cleaning, or even cooking when food is boiled), but which is not acceptable when dealing with the most essential need : drinking.

Our approach guarantees the quality of this drinking water, enabling the beneficiaries to access to this quality water for a very limited cost and a share of their budget adapted to this sole requirement.

Actions: Describe the steps that you are taking to make your innovation a success. Include a description of the business model. What might prevent that success?

Our standard expansion methodology is generally structured, for each country, along a three-phased approach :

- an Experimentation phase, based on ten experimental villages, aiming at testing the technology, refining the models by taking into account local parameters and verifying, through a "live" experimentation, its potential acceptance and workability by villagers. This phase was achieved for Cambodia between 2004 and 2007.

- a Roll-out model phase, based on forty to fifty additional new villages (in the same region), aiming at building the local skills needed to run the local platform as well as methodologies in view of a wide-scale dissemination. This phase started in Cambodia in 2008 and should be completed by end 2011,

- a Roll-out phase, planned for covering hundreds of new small communities over several years, in selected areas of the country.

The business model (for Cambodia) is hybrid :

- capital investment required for setting up each water production center in the village (US $ 20,000) is funded through charitable grants or subsidies,
- further operating expenses are self-financed through the turnover generated by the water sale.

A technical support platform is set up, serving 60 operating sites, and providing services such as managing the consumables supply chain, delivering education campaigns or (more important) performing a permanent (and independent) water quality control. In exchange of these services, each operating site pays a “service fee”, depending on its size, these fees enabling the support platform to be also self-financing and therefore sustainable.

This hybrid model has been adopted for Cambodia, in order to be able to sell drinking water for a price as low as $ 0,01/litre. Incorporating the initial investment amortization in the operating model would require a $0.015 /litre price, over the affordability level of Cambodian population. However, for other countries such as Viet-Nam (where a price up to $ 0.02 would be affordable) or even Bangladesh (where population density will lead to a much higher turnover while keeping the same $ 0.01 price), we plan to finance the initial investment through a classical commercial loan, therefore finalizing a complete social business model.

Results: Describe the expected results of these actions over the next three years. Please address each year separately, if possible

The 30 existing sites (launched over the 2005-2009 period) increase their volume of sales, year after year. We expect, with help of regular information campaigns and “social marketing” actions, to serve, for each village, approximatively 40% of the population (who will have become “customers”) after 8 years. This means that these 30 sites will serve approximatively 100,000 persons by 2016.

30 new sites are planned to be established over the 2011-2012 period. These thirty new sites will be established in the same geographical area (North west Cambodia) as the previous one, thus finalizing the 60 sites network served by the Battambang support platform and enabling this platform to become financially self-sustainable.

By 2012, we will then have secured the sustainability of this network which will provide, for ever, totally safe water to more than 200,000 persons and which will provide full-time work to 200 persons.

This will have been achieved with a global investment (from 2005 to 2011) of US $ 1.2 millions, equivalent to no more than US 6 per beneficiary.

The following step will be to expand this approach throughout Cambodia, by setting up a second (then a third, etc…) support platform(s) and their related operating sites in the village. We plan to create, over the 2012-2016 period, 200 new operating sites, serving an additional 800,000 beneficiaries by 2020.

How many people will your project serve annually?

More than 10,000

What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

Less than $50

Does your innovation seek to have an impact on public policy?


If your innovation seeks to impact public policy, how?

Our project seeks to focus public attention on the actual challenge which is (in many countries) less the water quantity issue than the drinking water quality one. We plan to demonstrate that :

- public health can be significantly improved by this focus and by the ability to deliver everyone just 2 litres/day of totally safe drinking water,

- this can be achieved through very “light” and flexible solutions, without costly infrastructure, and for an investment cost per beneficiary much lower than the usual pipe-based systems,

- this can be achieved through social entrepreneurship models, creating a side benefit for all these families who, in each village, can become an “entrepreneur” and earn their living by their work and their service to their community.

What stage is your Social Enterprise in?

Operating for more than 5 years

Does your organization have a board of directors or an advisory board?


Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with businesses?


Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how partnerships could be critical to the success of your Social Enterprise

Partnerships with field NGOs help improving the implementation process within the beneficiaries communities. Partnerships with businesses (such as Danone Group, Accenture, Mérieux...) provide us with expert skills that we don't have within our organization. Partnership with local governments (such as the Cambodian Ministry of Rural Development) are mandatory for expanding this solution on a wide scale within the country.

But we also look forward for new partnerships with financial (or investors) organizations. As explained, our model in Cambodia is an hybrid model, requiring the capital expenditures be funded through grants or subsidies. But for new countries, such as India or Bangladesh (where our project is already supported by Pfr. Muhammad Yunus, Peace Nobel Prize), we would like to set it up as a full social business model, relying on commercial loans and investors equity for our development.

We would like to learn more about how your initiative is financially supported. Please explain your business plan/revenue model

The “1001 fontaines pour demain” initiative is structured into three major components, as follows:

- the village operator-entrepreneur, chosen by the village, who produces and distributes safe drinking water daily within his/her village. His/her revenues are directly driven by the turnover generated by the water sale.

- the “supporting platform”, which employs local technicians to support the operators in the surrounding villages. Its revenues are generated by the monthly “service fees” paid by each entrepreneur in exchange of the supporting services delivered by the platform.

- the central team, which is kept to the minimum size possible, determines the technologies to be used, performs the overall program management of the initiative, ensures that experience and knowledge is shared among the teams in the field and conducts ongoing research and development aimed at continual improvement of the processes used by the operator-entrepreneurs in the villages. Its revenues are made of contributions paid by each platform (set to 20% of their own service fee revenues).

Basically, this model works as a three level “franchise” similar to commercial companies as Mc Donalds.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

The project idea was born during a dinner among the three co-founders :

- a young cambodian engineer, born in one of these small isolated community of North-Cambodia and who, despite his poor origin, has succeded, in the education field, up to be graduated from the most talented universities of both Cambodia and France (he has been recognized in 2007 by the Junior Chamber International as one of the ten outstanding young person of the planet),

- myself, enjoying a succesful track record in the consulting business but seeking a different sense for my activities,

- a (also succesful) business woman, whose father - a talented electronics engineer - had once designed a small system (based on UV water purification powered by solar energy) in order to enable a small french goat cheese producer, established in an isolated farm (away from electricity as well from any tap), to incorporate a natural source water into his cheese production.

Despite the skepticism of all the "specialists" (large NGOs, water industrials) who all explained us that "it would never work", we decided to try, in three small cambodian villages, and see whether such idea would respond to the villagers' needs. And, after 18 months, it seemed that the answer was positive.

Since 2004, we have now equipped 30 sites in Cambodia, serving around 30.000 beneficiaries and are looking forward to expanding this project throughout Cambodia and into other countries.

Tell us about the person—the social innovator—behind this idea.

As a consultant and later Partner of Andersen Consulting (from 1975 to 1997), I carried out numerous missions in many areas of management and industry. Member of the Management Committee, I directly contributed to the strategic development of Andersen Consulting (now Accenture).

From 1997 to 2003, I worked as an independent consultant in Strategy and Change Management areas, while simultaneously managing a small business company (automatic drink dispensers).

A civil mining engineer, I am married and have two children.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Through another organization or company

If through another source, please provide the information