- Reseach project
- – Western Pacific
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Faced with the risk of losing everything to the sea, a local community has stepped up to take over responsibility for defending its coastline. With 90 miles of coastline (increasing to 93 when the tide is out), stretching from Kings Lynn to Great Yarmouth, Norfolk in the United Kingdom has one of the longest coastlines in the country. It attracts thousands of visitors each year and is the site of numerous archaeological discoveries, including the oldest footprints in the world. It is also a coastline at risk. Combinations of strong winds and high tides lead to flooding and major devastation, as experienced in 1953, and more recently in 2013. Scenes of broken houses teetering on cliff edges have become the norm. Climate change and rising sea levels increase the risk of flooding still further. Coastal protection is limited. There are sand dunes, and a grassy bank some distance inland. Most of the coastline is exposed to the sea. A low lying agricultural area, there are very few large towns within the county. UK Government policies focus on a mix of managing a retreat, not intervening and holding the line within selected areas, such as around a gas terminal at Bacton. The North Norfolk District Council sea defence projects have included building groynes, timber revetments, offshore reefs and protective rock armour on various beaches, but most areas do not have any protection at all. The result is that many communities are at risk of losing their homes and livelihoods. One of those communities decided enough was enough.
Great entrepreneurs have the ability to change society, shaping the way we live and work. What can entrepreneurs do for water development that will help to achieve the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goal 6 and deliver universal access to safe water and sanitation? “In the history of human development, it’s always been innovations that have paved the way to overcome societal challenges,” says Dr Christian Vousvouras, a WASH specialist at Nestle. “If we look at the WASH sector, the challenges are different. There are many technological solutions to provide WASH in a cost-efficient manner. What we need today are innovative and effective delivery models. The most successful WASH entrepreneurs will be the ones that find the right business model or that create the right ecosystem around their solution.” Vousvouras says that entrepreneurs can make use of existing multi-stakeholder platforms, such as the Alliance for Water Stewardship,to find a place in an ecosystem with other stakeholders. “The collaboration among different actors will be key. WASH investments have enormous productivity gains from a societal point of view.”
Israel not only has a water surplus, it also exports water and has now become a global leader in many water technologies. This is surprising, given that Israel is 60 per cent desert and experiences rain only in winter. Since its independence in 1948, Israel’s yearly rainfall has fallen by more than 50 per cent while its population has grown tenfold, increasing the pressure on its water resources. Annual rainfall varies across the country and extreme variations in precipitation between years are normal. So, what has made Israel a “water superpower”?
In the natural world, a diverse ecosystem is a healthy and strong one—and business ecosystems are no different. There’s no one-size-fits-all model when it comes to creating and maintaining these ecosystems to deliver clean water in some of the poorest and most isolated parts of the world. “It’s really important to focus on what is the target population for improving access to water from a business standpoint,” says Mike Barbee from market-based safe water charity Water4, which works with local communities in 12 African nations and Peru. “When developing models to help business partners, we need to determine what markets are untapped in terms of potential, and who does not have access from a rights perspective.” Barbee says that focusing on growth potential for local businesses in the sector will provide safe water for more people. “High quality water costs less than five percent of household income, so it’s very affordable to [the] majority of people. We believe people can and do pay for water even in the most rural areas—whether through potable water at community managed water points, or offsetting household use through paying for sachet or bottled water. “If they don’t have access to safe water, they’re paying indirectly, through lost opportunity costs such as healthcare. We are seeing that as an optional aspect of revenue that our partners can tap into, and also help them understand what they’re spending themselves.” Barbee says that the two greatest barriers to entry for water entrepreneurs are financing, such as obtaining seed capital to start up a business, and having the business savvy to deliver a one-off service from time-to-time and to deliver long-term viability and be able to expand. A 2018 Waterpreneurs white paper, Impact Investing for Water, says that the sector is seeing the emergence of hybrid models for water, sanitation, and hygiene financing, because they are considered the most effective, by combining complementary and sometimes unconventional approaches. “Enterprises also see the potential for the franchise model in markets that require intensive demand generation and where it is difficult to provide direct maintenance support,” the report states. “The franchisee makes an initial investment (down payment), with direct or indirect financial support from the CWP enterprise, and operates the unit under a revenue sharing agreement with the enterprise.” An example project is Jibu, operating in East Africa, which is a social franchise business model. Its structure ensure that entrepreneurs operate within the constraints of a revocable franchise license—meaning they are required to adhere to Jibu’s brand standards and charitable goals. One of the project’s innovations is the integration custom banking services for aspiring entrepreneurs, offering entrepreneurs access to both the upfront asset financing needed to launch a business, as well as infrastructure support to keep profits aligned with impact. “The most important thing when looking at the financing, whether a franchise or build-own-operate models, it to contextualise, and ask what will work in this scenario given the market and the demand and the human capacity and capital there,” says Mike Barbee. “In urban and peri-urban areas, those with experience with franchise models or in commerce, generally might be willing to take on a water business. However, in areas with no expertise, it is difficult to replicate franchises in our experience.” Barbee says that when it comes to growing local businesses to maximise their impact, the sector can be guilty of focusing on front-end support. “There needs to be a greater awareness that the process of supply and support is a medium-to-long term project.” This is the second article in a four-part series that explores ideas to improve water and sanitation funding around the world. Read the series:
“When you make discoveries, you generate more unknowns. The same goes for water management. You can implement something, but the after effect is still unknown until it occurs or a crisis actually happens.” Kevin Chun Teck Lim hails from Malaysia’s Labuan Federal territory, a small island off the north-western coast of Borneo, known for its lush rainforests and picturesque beaches. He spent much of his childhood around water and he credits his upbringing to developing his appreciation of water. “I lived in a pretty diverse region – different cultures, languages and religions. My Dad is Chinese and my Mum is an indigenous person of Sabah, in Malaysia. But I grew up like a normal kid. I think my interest in water really started early on and built more with my career.” Kevin’s journey began with a Degree in Chemical Engineering from Universiti Teknologi Petronas in Malaysia. This led him to a graduate program with Continental Tyres. The program saw Kevin head to the other side of the world, to work in the Continental Tyres’ headquarters in Germany. Over the next three and a half years, he worked on a number of projects centered around European utilities. It was his experience working with utilities that made him want to know more about water resource management and conservation. His time in Germany also opened his eyes to the importance of environmental management. After seeing the care and effort put into the water sector in Germany, and in particular the stringent controls around water regulation, Kevin came to realise how different it was to his home in Malaysia. “In Malaysia, we don’t have the mindset of needing to save water. Eventually, we will be wasting water. And we also have leaks in piping everywhere because the water industry doesn’t care about fixing them, and this leads to big water losses.” Kevin hopes to use his experiences to help change the mindset of the people of Malaysia, to improve actions around water conservation. Ultimately, he hopes to use his skills and knowledge to change the way Malaysia and its people see water as a resource - a challenge he is eager to take on. Kevin Chun Tek Lim is a current Master of Integrated Water Management student at the International WaterCentre. About the author: Dahna Morrisson writes as a correspondent for the International WaterCentre, charged with exploring water challenges and the ways these challenges are managed around the world.