Yesterday was World Water day and my recent visits to the field made me pause and think about the tremendous strides that have been made in parts of India to bring clean water to every village. Just last week, the Villgro fellows were in Hyderabad, visiting the rural water plants of Naandi and Byrraju Foundations. Both organizations have similar operations of establishing water filtration plants in rural villages, which provide clean water for consumption at a price of ~Rs. 2 per day for each family (assuming a consumption of 12L).
How it works:
1. Villages demonstrate that they want and can support a water plant by collecting a portion of the funds to contribute to the building costs, which also creates a sense of ownership
2. Naandi and Byrraju Foundations conduct due diligence on the village including a feasibility study and evaluation of need
3. Local panchayats (village heads) allocate land or a building for the installation of the water plant; Naandi and Byrraju work with the community to plan the building to make sure that the community’s needs are incorporated
4. Naandi and Byrraju raise the additional funds for the cost of building and installation of the water filtration system
5. Local people are trained and employed to be the plant supervisors and managers (Naandi’s model has 2 employees per plant vs. 4 employees per Byrraju plant)
6. One employee serves as a sales and awareness building representative, who encourages village households to use the facility
7. Each household pays an initial ~Rs.100 – 150 for a 12L or 20L water jug as a membership fee and then pays a monthly ~Rs. 60 for daily water usage; purchases are tracked with a membership card
8. Operational costs of employee salaries and filtration system maintenance are covered by the pay-per-use model
Visiting both facilities, there were also a few best practices which I think are worth sharing:
1. Instill practices to encourage usage of clean water – Naandi’s membership card has 30 slots for each day of the month. When households come to collect their water each day, the appropriate slot is marked off. Households pay Rs.60 for the monthly card of 30 days and cannot roll over any missed days. According to health studies, 12L is the amount that an average household needs to consume daily, so the objective here is to encourage households to consumer only clean water by forcing them to collect 12L per day or losing that option value.
2. Make it a water party - the water plant in Nellutla that we visited was a community center as much as it was a clean water source. The multiple taps and self-service model encouraged villagers to come in the mornings and evenings around the same time to commune as well as to collect their water. The plant was also located right by the village temple. The village also hosted parties around the water plant, since it was centrally located and was a natural gathering place.
3. Increase transparency and accountability of the NGO – at the Nellutla water plant, there was a prominent plaque on the building displaying the donors who contributed to the building. But what was more remarkable was the display of the responsible parties and their contact information. The manager of Naandi’s water project was clearly listed along with his mobile number. Any time that the villagers had a problem with the plant, they knew who to call.
It may sound simple, but it is truly impressive what Naandi and Byrraju have done in just the last few years. Naandi aims to be in 400 villages by the end of the year, which at an estimated 2,000 people per village could potentially impact 800K people! Both Naandi and Byrraju currently operate in Andhra Pradesh, which has one of the country’s greatest needs for clean water. The lessons learned there will certainly need to be brought to other states in India – there are still millions of people waiting for access to clean water.