Water Democracy: let’s change a million lives

Particularly in the developed world, most of us take fresh drinking water for granted. Simply turn on a tap or reach for a bottle and safe, palatable water is readily available. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case for everyone in the world. WHO (World Health Organisation) estimate that around 30% of the world’s population does not have access to safe, readily accessible water at home. That’s 2.1 billion people! There are many reasons why some of the world’s most vulnerable people are without an adequate water supply: location in a remote or rural area; part of a small settlement where installation of a suitable safe supply is uneconomical; broken or faulty purification methods; no access to affordable purification. Fortunately, an Australian enterprise, Water Democracy, aims to change this grim statistic.

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Water Democracy – affordable, sustainable water purification

Operating with the slogans “Let’s change a million lives” and “Water for all”, Water Democracy is committed to designing and producing low-cost, robust, sustainable water purification units which have sufficient capacity to supply a home with fresh water. Water Democracy is the brainchild of Syed Mansoor and Nuzhat Ali, engineers and entrepreneurs by trade who live in Sydney. During their childhood in Pakistan and India, they experienced first-hand the problems of limited access to drinking water. This was a large part of their inspiration to form Water Democracy, working to create a water purifier that was designed specifically to suit the end user.

What sets Tunkee apart?

Tunkee, the prototype water purification unit designed by Mansoor and Ali, has a number of features which make it particularly suitable for use in remote, rural communities in less developed parts of the world. The Tunkee is very easy to operate: simply place water in the unit, shut the lid, leave it in the sun (solar energy is necessary for the purifier to work) and drink! There is no need for a power supply: the unit is freestanding. Benefiting from a robust construction, it is easy to maintain and, in the event that it malfunctions, can be repaired using simple tools. There are no complicated instructions: a picture manual provides all the information needed to keep the Tunkee running perfectly.

Water Democracy don’t want to stop at one product, instead their aim is to tackle this crisis with a portfolio of suitable robust technologies for every part of the world. Water Democracy are a problem focused company and believe that if we have technologies suiting each different environment, we can globally solve the crisis.

A social enterprise that’s making a difference

The way that Water Democracy works is that Australian people will be able to buy a Tunkee for their own use. The payment is used to subsidise the cost of the Tunkee for families in the developing world, helping to make it affordable to them. Because each Tunkee has enough capacity for one family, it is an innovation that can be used directly by households, without the need for the authorities, charities or other organisations to get involved. Water Democracy is committed to building capacity in the local communities it serves, ensuring that the Tunkees are correctly installed and are working well.

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Tunkee gets a trial at Walgett, NSW

Currently, at the trial phase of development, on-going issues with obtaining drinking water meant that Walgett, NSW, residents were the perfect people to benefit from initial trials of the Tunkee. Prolonged periods of drought, possibly coupled with an increase in the number of water licenses sold up-river and the premature release of stored water have led to the Walgett water supply becoming increasingly contaminated. Fish are dying in the river and there are chronic problems with the growth of toxic blue/green algae. Because the water supply is sourced from the river, it’s inevitable that it is highly polluted. Although it’s hard to believe that homes in a developed country such as Australia could suffer from a lack of drinkable water, that’s exactly what’s happening in Walgett and some of the neighbouring towns.

Water Democracy was able to come to the rescue! Trialling their Tunkee in Walgett, they enabled local people to obtain the safe water they need for drinking. The trials went well, empowering Australian people to get fresh water when their usual supply was unobtainable. Not only are local residents in Walgett now able to enjoy the clean water they need, but this trial has also demonstrated the effectiveness of the Tunkee.

Fresh, safe water is vital for everyone. Through a combination of social entrepreneurship, enterprise, expertise and compassion, Water Democracy is creating a low-tech, sustainable and affordable answer to the problem of obtaining drinking water. Suitable for households anywhere that currently don’t have fresh water, the Tunkee’s trial in Walgett shows that it’s not just in the developing world that there is a need for this type of water purification.

Here at Beloka Water, we celebrate the work which Water Democracy is doing. We recognise the value of clean water and applaud their vision and commitment in creating not only an innovative water purifier, but in devising a business model that enables it to be purchased and used where it’s needed most.