Last meeting of Adaqua abroad. We succeeded in finding the perfect meeting to finish the trip. A promising start-up which produces water filter (which symbolizes the technical side of our project) to give to the population a sustainable water supply (the big goal of our study!)
So we go to see WateROAM at the National University of Singapore. Welcome to the start-up heaven: The Factory, huge open-space with pure design, with young entrepreneurs who eat, discuss and write on brain storming board and invent the products of tomorrow; Among all this agitation, Lim Chong Tee welcomes us with a big smile.
WateROAM decided to fight against the drinkable water problem, particularly in the South East Asia. In fact, Singapore is an anomaly in South-East Asia: each Singaporean has access to drinkable water at tap every day. Outside of this bubble, 260 million Asian people suffer of water problem each day.
So, how do they do? They have invented different filters. Their common points are that they are easy to use, to transport, to maintain and are cheap. The goal? All the people can use it.
One is called the ROAMfilter Lite, little pocket of 10L that Chong Tee built in thirty seconds in front of us and which permits to destroy all the dangerous organisms. The principle is simple: fill the pocket of water which goes through a filter. Bye Bye the little beast which can make us sick. Those pockets are a good way to get easily clean water in every situation, in particular in disaster when all the normal treatment way could be destroyed: Earthquake in Nepal in 2015, Vanuatu in 2015. The list of the countries in which WateROAM used those pockets are pretty long. There are other uses like giving clean water far from the grid.
The other is a pump-filter: ROAMfilter PLUS. Water intake takes the water to the machine, and then you pump to make the water clean. The system is bigger and more complex but it gets to treat more water: 250L of Water in just one hour; whereas ROAMfilter Lite only has a flow rate of 6 to 8L per hour.
It is amazing, It is innovative but we were very skeptical after this first part of the presentation (French mentality…) Would the population use it? We went on the field to see other innovations. We saw that sometimes it was difficult to change the mentality and to make people understand that they must drink clean water.
The proof is reality: People use those filters in Nepal, Vanuatu after natural disasters. The filters were distributed by the NGOs alongside with help from the local community: WateROAM found a good to bring those filters to the population.
But WateROAM wants to go further: it wants to sell filters directly to the local population. Thanks to local NGO and partnership with microfinance institutes, they set up a pilot trial in Cambodia in April 2016: They brought down the ROAMfilter Plus to water entrepreneurs who succeed in getting a filter thanks to microcredit. These entrepreneurs purify the water and sell it to the population.
Second step of skepticism: In India, people we met didn’t want to pay their water even if it is cleaner than their normal water! But the proof is reality: in the test field, people are used to pay their water. The pilot trial in Cambodia showed an encouraging strong response from the local community. With a better price and a more pristine water quality, consumers are able to improve their lives with safer and cleaner water.
“So, 41 Cambodia entrepreneurs have already bought Wateroam filter and sell the water to the local population with better price than before.” (As we are still in the Beta phase, we do not have 41 entrepreneurs who’ve bought the ROAMfilter Plus yet J We are currently working with a Cambodian NGO, roping it 30-50 water entrepreneurs to spearhead the microbusinesses in Cambodia)