Engineering 101

When You Have A Smartphone But No Water

Access to clean water remains a significant problem in Africa, yet smartphones are widespread throughout the continent today. Introducing mobile payment to solar-powered water purification units combines the challenge and solution, making Solar Water ATMs a business opportunity for impact investors.

Solar Water Solutions (SWS), a Finnish water technology company, is the creator of the first-ever fully solar-powered desalination system that doesn’t require computer systems to run, or expensive, heavy batteries that need to be recharged daily and have a short lifespan.

Drinking water can be made easily and sustainably even in remote locations with 100% solar energy and zero emissions. Low life-cycle costs bring down the price of water.

In February 2020, SWS and its local partners finished the installation of a Solar Water ATM in drought-stricken Kenya. The unmanned water ATMs allow locals to vend water using a simple mobile payment, lowering the threshold and price of getting drinking water. They give access to WHO standard drinking water to over 6,000 customers in Kitui County at 0.1$ per 20-liter jerry can. The price and environmental footprint per water liter are remarkably lower compared to the single-use plastic bottles from local kiosks.

“Borehole water is becoming contaminated and saline around the world. We now aim to revolutionize the affordability of and access to safe drinking water in rural Kenya,” said the company CEO Antti Pohjola.

SWS is taking a step further by providing a business model where Solar Water ATMs create a steady revenue flow for infrastructure investors, impact investors and franchise entrepreneurs. By creating the business opportunity, SWS enables investors to increase their efforts for a positive impact, leading to better availability and access to drinking water in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“With our business model, investors can now finance rural water projects and address the world’s water crisis,” added Pohjola.

The Solar Water ATMs tackle at least five out of UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Clean Water and Sanitation, Climate Action, Affordable and Clean Energy, Good Health and Wellbeing, and finally, Gender Equality. Women and children are typically the ones who spend hours carrying water. A broader interpretation could include five or six more SDGs, which shows how essential clean, affordable water is for all aspects of life.

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