Aakash Ganga, a Community-Water-Utility Model for Rainwater Harvesting

Adapted U. S. utility industry model to harvest rainwater. Builds local infrastructure to end water scarcity for generations.

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I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.

  • Yes, I'm eligible

Preferred language

  • English

Organization name

Sustainable Innovations Inc.

Year founded


Initiative stage

  • Established (the solution has passed the previous stages and demonstrated success)

Annual budget in 2017 (USD)

  • $250k - $500k

Number of beneficiaries impacted so far

  • 5,000 - 10,000

Organization type

  • Nonprofit, NGO, or citizen sector

Secondary Focus Area

  • Rural development

Headquarters location: Country

  • United States of America

Headquarters location: City

12150 Monument drive, Suite# 400, Fairfax, VA 22033

Location(s) of impact

Country: India Region: Piloted in 6 villages: Lasedi, Raila, Harinagar, Indrasar, Kakreu Kalan, BITS Campus; Churu and Jhunjhunu area, Rajasthan.



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Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?

The world’s aquifers are being pumped dry. In India, aquifers are irreversibly losing 60 cubic miles annually. In Rajasthan, women spend hours to fetch water daily; 40,000 villages face water scarcity. Problem: India wants to harvest rainwater. Lacks development model to thrive amid its 1. Entitlement culture (people expecting free water); 2. Trust deficit (communities don't trust public institutions); 3. Societal segregation (upper caste don't partake water from lower caste); Gender inequality (It's women's chore.)

Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?

Solution: Aakash Ganga or AG, a rainwater harvesting system, adapted the US utility industry model to ensure systemic sustainability. Analogous to acquisition of passage or spectrum rights by the utility industry, AG acquires rainwater harvesting rights from homeowners and local governments. Like the public utility commission (PUC), a consumer watchdog, a village elders' committee, 50% women participants, sets policy for equitable access to water. With life-span of 25 years, AG's shared value lasts for a generation. Its most promising aspects are: 1. Co-ownership by the people and communities; 2. Empowering people to conduct daily audit, online daily audit, of the program; 3. Monetizing traditions and social bonds. The daily audit is the ultimate standard of transparency/accountability; builds trust with us and with AG. It took 8 years to perfect AG for cultural, operational, economic, institutional, technological, societal, political, and environmental sustainability

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work

Piloted in six villages, home to 10,000 people. Built 214 structures. Collects 15 million liters of rainwater annually. Costs $0.02 per thousand liter capacity. Social Impact: Delivers 25,000 liters of clean water per family. Weaned people off free-water entitlement culture. Equitable access to water created social harmony. Daily audit restored trust in community-based programs. Freed women to earn livelihood, girls to get an education, and children of water-borne diseases. Financial Impact: Each village contributed $20,000. Local gov't contributed 10,000 Sq. Meter land. A first in India. Digital technologies, satellite imaging and geographical information system eliminated surveys. Saved $5,000 per village. Cut design period from 12 to 2 weeks. Water Resource Management: Remote IT-based monitoring of water quality and quantity. Capacity 1 million reservoirs. Leadership: Builds local capacity. Online knowledge repository enables speedy replication by others.

Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?

Current: 100% funding from U.S. foundations, individual donors, and Indian diaspora. Mitigated risks of co-investment by people; social and political upheavals, and local government resistance. Pursuing two-pronged strategy for scale up. A. Partner with commercial companies to acquire rainwater harvesting rights for every village in India. Build a water utility in every village. B. Form public-private-consumer partnership (PPCP) wherein Gov't to provide 80% capital and 20% by the private sector and beneficiaries. The government's prerequisite is that PPCP should demonstrate sustainability in 50-villages and mitigate the risks. Sustainable Innovations aims to raise $5 million from philanthropic ventures and donors for the 50-village demonstration.

Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?

Water solutions such as Water ATMs, bore wells, and Play Pumps work when ground water is plentiful but hasten aquifer depletion. Big Idea: Aakash Ganga births a new industry – a federation of local water-utilities -- to harvest rainwater in every village. Value proposition: Accepts India as “it-is”. Doesn’t seek behavior change, glacially slow. Monetizes ancient traditions and social bonds. AG is systemically sustainable, culturally, politically, economically, and operationally.

Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.

In 2003, I acquired the intellectual property rights from the Eastern Virginia Bankruptcy Court to start a new venture. I invited a few friends for dinner to raise seed capital. In between the samosa bites, we talked of giving back to solve social problems, like water scarcity, in our homeland, India. Suddenly, a friend thumped the coffee table and asked, “What difference would it make, even if we were to give $100 million to India?” The conversation came to abrupt halt, meaning money may not make a difference. If not money, then what will make difference? That was my "aha!" moment. Months later, I realized that India needs a systemically sustainable development model to replace its "build-neglect-rebuild" model (IRC Water and Sanitation Center, Holland). I started to innovate a development model to end water scarcity in rural India. And Aakash Ganga was born.

Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?

  • Ashoka page or contact

Evaluation results

5 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 40%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 60%

3 - I think the idea is great, but it needs some work before it moves onto the next round. - 0%

2 - I liked it fine but preferred others. - 0%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. Needs significant revisions. - 0%

2. Innovation

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 60%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 40%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

3. Social and/or Environmental Impact

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 80%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 20%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

4. Financial sustainability

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 33.3%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 100%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 33.3%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 0%

5. Potential to Scale / Replicability

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 40%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 60%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

6. Organizational Leadership

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 75%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 25%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

7. Potential for Creating Shared Value

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 40%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 60%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

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Attachments (2)

Aakash Ganga Introduction (1).pdf

An in-depth look into Aakash Ganga's unique features, innovations, and potential to scale.

h8s1 Aakash Ganga Brochure.pdf

A brochure on the inspiration, history, and impact of Aakash Ganga.


Join the conversation:


Thank you Eunice. I am now focused on building the organization and looking for an Executive Director. If you spot a candidate, steer them my way.

Photo of Eunice

Great work, BP. Exciting to see how your work has progressed since we first came across you in 2012. I applaud you for your commitment to continually improving and perfecting your rainwater harvesting system. I especially love your holistic approach that takes into account technological innovation as well as cultural, economic, and political change.

Photo of Jonathan Litscher

Great to see your truly innovative approach and focus on the very long term. Your holistic understanding including cultural and environmental factors is a great strength. I hope all your work to this point pays off!


Thank you Jonathan for your observations.

Yes, Aakash Ganga is an infrastructure to last generations. I recall during my first visit, it became clear that villagers are unwilling to co-invest. They expect free water as an entitlement. Later on I went back and offered to their rooftops for a fee to collect rainwater from their rooftops or acquire rainwater harvesting rights. This model clicked.

Photo of Katya Cherukumilli

Your work is really fantastic and what you've done already is inspiring (great pics too)! We should consider collaborating in other parts of India where groundwater geogenic contamination is rampant (my expertise is in fluoride contamination).


Our strategy to bring safe water to millions is to collaborate with other organizations. We will make our technology, innovations, enterprise model and best practices available.

Incidentally, both Ashok and I are recipients of Lemelson-MIT award. Say Hello to Ashok for me.


Kayla, our approach to bring safe water to millions is to collaborate with other organizations. We will make our enterprise model and innovations available.

Ashok and I are both Lemelson-MIT awardees. Say Hello to Ashok for me.

Photo of German Whitley

BP, I and GISCorps are honored to be working with your group on such a worthy cause. Best of luck!


German, your map books ignited the team in India -- this is the first time they saw use of advanced technologies in rural settings.
Your work saved us time, funds, and hassle.

Photo of Susan Burton

This such a life giving natural way of giving to people to help themselves. I applaud his thoughtful work.


Susan, I vividly remember the 2012 Purpose Prize ceremony. You are an inspiration incarnated.

Photo of Sharon

This is a wonderful example of a sustainable relationship between an energy source (BP Agrawal and Aakash Ganga)) and the local communities. It is very unusual for communities to contribute so substantially to an "outside" project, even when the benefits are clear. And water is essential for life. Just think what additional funding could do. Sharon Rising


I applaud Centering Healthcare for scaling the program to 500 health systems and practices. Will love to learn from your experience whenever you have time.

We have coupled Aakash Ganga (River form the Sky in HIndi) with Arogya, (Disease Free in Hindi) a health care delivery program that supports female high-school graduates to set up their own health enterprises for delivery of health care a patients' doorstep.

Photo of Edivan Silva de Carvalho

Parabéns pelas estratégias implementadas para minimizar o acesso a água destas pessoas.

Photo of Nitish Chiniwar

Dear @BP AGRAWAL, great work on sustainable development model for reducing/ending water scarcity. I had interacted with another organisation working in Rajasthan called Manthan. They too have done tremendous work on improving ground water and using rain water harvesting. It could be of great synergy for both to come together - here is their website link http://www.manthankotri.in/. Please do let me know, if you want to connect with them personally. All the best for the project. It is need of the hour!


Thanks, Nitish, for reaching our. Our strategy is to share our social enterprise model, best practices, and social innovations with credible and financially sound organizations for speedy replication of Aakash Ganga and health care delivery system.

Photo of Venu Palaparthi

Great work BP. I have followed this from idea to action and the work being done by Akash Ganga is remarkable in terms of impact and scope.


Thank you Venu. You keep me going.

Photo of Surendra Rawat

A great endeavor! Understanding a need, and combining low tech with hitech, with ingenious ways to pull together community participation to self-sustain. Much needed water, only those who don't have, can appreciate. Thank you!


Yes, one of the challenges was to simplify technology for village-level adaptation and maintenance. For example, standardization of hand pumps enable "footings" on reservoir top to hold the pump in place. Otherwise the pump wobbles while pulling water from the reservoir. Another example: Villages don't have street names and house numbers. How does one identify physical location of a reservoir? Aakash Ganga created map books based on satellite images. The map books show latitude and longitude of every reservoir. Aaksh Ganga uses the latitude and longitude to identify a reservoir.

Photo of Skip

My daughter had the opportunity to intern this summer at Sustainable Innovations.  She was so
impacted by their work, she wrote her college application essay about her experience... an excerpt:
" As I scrolled through the non-profits webpage, I found myself analyzing villager's faces as they hoisted up buckets of clean water. These images linked them to the organization, the donors, and even me halfway around the world. My desire to know each and every person multiplied. I spent the rest of the day entranced, learning how the water we collected allowed a mother to send her child to school, helped a farmer's cow increase milk production, and saved children from waterborne disease. ... Each grant I found represented a chance to change another life for the better...


Wow, Skip. It is powerful essay for Aakash Ganga. Emee has captured the essence of Aakash Ganga in such simple and heart-touching language. She just pumped me up. Please convey my thanks to Emee. Will it be possible to get a copy of her essay?

Photo of G Louis

Congratulations BP. The challenge is to scale up!




Garrick, I expect to recruit new staff, with experience of building organizations, before the year end.

Photo of Kirsten Spainhower

Great to see how far you've come BP. Delighted to have followed the progress of Akash Ganga since 2007 when I was supervising your grant with the World Bank.


Kirsten, the progress has been steady but slow. Now my focus is on building SI and recruiting staff with experience of scaling social programs. (You had advised me quite sometime back.) I expect new team members to join me shortly.

Photo of Jim Emerman

Bzp Agrawal was a winner of The Purpose Prize whilr I was running the program at Encore.org. He's a true social Innovator bringing change to many in India. The adaptation of the well-established utility industry model for rainwater harvesting assures scalability and longevity. Dr. Agrawal saw hidden economic value in the ancient traditions and social norms. His “daily audit” is a home-grown innovation to win trust and fight corruption.


Thank you Jim. it is the "daily audit" and utility industry model that endeared Aakash Ganga in villages. We are adding two more villages to Aakash Ganga.

Photo of Michelle Herman

I loved learning about this incredibly valuable effort. I truly admire the work Sustainable Innovations is doing for the people of India.


Michelle, my approach for expansion of the Utility model is to share our utility model, innovations, business practices, and cultural sustainability broadly. You may be aware of platforms to disseminate the knowledge. Will you let me know of these platforms?

Photo of Vikas Agarwal

Coming from that part of the world where Dr.Agarwal and his team run the Aakash Ganga program,I can only imagine the difference this project has been creating and how this has touched and altered the daily lives of people like never before. Best wishes to the team and hope we see this project expand and bring more people under it's umbrella.


One difference the program made is to make me a better listener. While scouting for a needy village, I was in Lasedi. The people, all male, were pleading with me to implement Aakash Ganga in Lasedi. I wasn't convinced. And then a woman approached me with a water jug. I poured water in my mouth and ......... involuntarily spat -- it was incredibly salty.

The woman admonished me: "I have to drink it everyday."

I decided right then to implement Aakash Ganga in Lasedi. Wouldn't you salute her ability to communicate?!

Photo of Julie Jigour

I love that this project enables women to earn livelihood and girls to seek an education. The project is important both for the health of and social equity in the communities it impacts.


When asked of benefits of Aakash Ganga, one woman enthused: "My cow's milk has doubled." Prior to Aakash Ganga she didn't have enough water for her cows. Dairy animals are the source of their livelihood.

Thanks for your support,


Julie, just picture a school-age girl carrying a load of books on her head instead of water!

Photo of Old Friend

The global community is facing complex problems, and this project takes on one of the basic problems that society faces. The project addresses the pressing problem of health and inequality in its various forms.


As Dean of the Business School, you can speak to gender inequality. It is women's burden to fetch water for their families. During my visit to Snawlod, I met with Sharmila, a college graduate. Her face lit up at the thought of having "sweet" water at her doorstep. They call rainwater "sweet" water because the ground water is salty.

Photo of Sushil

A self-sustaining renewable water supply system is essential for survival. Additionally, by removing the work-load of fetching water, this project enables a regenerative cycle for the under-privileged to pull themselves out of poverty. The concept of collecting rainwater on Home rooftops was not new in the deserts of Rajasthan, India - my mother’s ancestral home followed this practice. “Modern” urbanization destroyer that tradition. This project integrates traditions with engineeringto create a novel solution to collect and distribute water equitably with auditable transparency. It’s organic growth strategy is fundamentally more sustainable than the top-down planning of today’s society.

Photo of Raegan Payne

This project is so important because it will fundamentally improve the health and well-being of people in small villages. Women are often saddled with the burden of collecting water in their communities, which leaves them with little time to develop businesses of their own or even go to school. Also, if people are sick from diseases in the water they can not improve the lives of other people in their community. This project is incredibly important and has demonstrated success in the past. I hope you will support it.

Photo of Hukam Garg

India has a drinking water problem all over. In big cities government start projects to fulfill the requirements of the public but in small villages nothing gets done. This results in scarcity of pure drinkable water and many deceases and many people die and family suffer. Aakash Ganga is trying to solve this problem which is very cost effective. It has built the sustainability of the project by reducing the cost with lots of volunteer work and industry contribution. I salute the people associated with this project for their time, effort and service.


Thanks, Hukam. Your support will bring water to millions.

Photo of Debra Berliner

I'm so moved by this project! With our rapidly changing climate, water insecurity is increasingly becoming a way of life, and we need all the innovation and creativity we can get. But so many initiatives I come across that aim to confront climate change and water scarcity fail to take into account the local realities and cultural norms in the communities they serve, and the projects ultimately flop. Aakash Ganga seems to get that we can't fight climate change with a one-size-fits-all approach. It brings a cultural competence that a generic project from a think tank simply can't. And in helping to fade out gender and class inequities, it's building a society that will be better prepared to deal with a future of resource uncertainty. Thank you for doing this essential work!


Debra, as you observed Aakash Ganga's approach is to build a local water utility in every village. Their parent utility will ensure flow of financial, intellectual, and managerial resources. That is what makes Aakash Ganga systemically sustainable.

Photo of om khandelwal

Bhagawati you are doing a great job for the community
You saw hidden economic value in the ancient traditions and social norms. His “daily audit” is a home-grown innovation to win trust and fight corruption. Astounding!


Too often, we view ancient traditions as agents of inertia. They sap a community's agility, we think. They impede progress.
Aakash Ganga is culturally sustainable because it has integrated the cultural traditions and societal norms.

Thanks for observations.

Photo of Gail Kong

The Sustainable Innovations model relies on an enviable combination of low-cost technology, human capital rooted in local culture and customs and financial sustainability. From my many years as a public policy and foundation executive I have watched BP develop his concept, build the SI organization, and engage new supporters to this all important mission. Having an adequate water resource is getting much needed attention. In many parts of the world only local strategies have any hope of making an impact. Thank you SI.


Gail, thank you very much for your endorsement of the Aakash Ganga's utility model.

In September 2017, the Drucker Institute selected Sustainable Innovations as one of the finalist for $100,000 Drucker Prize. The prize recognizes non-profits for change or innovation that creates a new dimension of performance. In Aakash Ganga's case the change was integration of integration of technology, local culture, and business approach. And the "new dimension" was birth of the local water utility industry.


Photo of Chandra

Drinking Water is very next to getting oxygen to live. It’s a pity that many human beings don’t get as basic thing as safe drinking water after all the advancements and wealth creation by mankind over last 50 years. Dr Agrawal has done so much difference in the most challenging state when it comes to safe drinking water for people. With his track record any financial aid provided will help create maximum impact one can imagine.


Thanks for championing the cause of safe drinking water.

Photo of Chad Eschman

I recently read that India extracts more groundwater than any other country. It seems that the reserves are reaching dangerously low levels, so a system like this could prove to be incredibly important.


Just imagine: the rate at which India is sucking up its aquifers dry, Lake Erie may become a dust bowl and Niagara Falls a trickle in couple of years. On December 10, 2015, USA Today published a report on the dire situation in India. Some regions of India are rapidly running out of groundwater.
We are looking for organizations to collaborate, share our enterprise model, and bring waterto millions. If you spot such an organization, steer them to our way.

Photo of Annika Fain

Aakash Ganga is an innovative solution to provide clean water to villages all over India. This is an amazing program that empowers people.


Yes, Annika, Aakash Ganga was designed to rhyme with the local culture and social norms. Rather than seeking communities' to change their behavior, a glacially slow process, Aakash Ganga adapts itself to suit the local cultures.


Photo of Annika Fain

I would love to go to India some time with you or Nayna. I would like to learn more about what you do and how I can help with my hydrology and water resources expertise!


Sure, I am looking for volunteers with a purpose. Depending upon your interest and availability , we can come with a specific project that suits you.

Photo of Ayesha Flaherty

This is a necessary and honorable endeavor. So many of us take access to water for granted, but your organization and efforts recognize a huge need that can improve the lives of so many. The impact - to the individual, a family, a community, and a society - are great.


Thank you Ayesha for spotlighting Aakash Ganga's impact on women, girls, and environment -- , management of water resources. Just spread the word and be our champion.

Photo of Brian Corpuz

Aakash Ganga provides not only an essential basic need for water through a unique method of collection via natural weather but affords women and families the time to be better educated to have a better standard of living. It can truly change people's lives.


Thanks Brian. Aakash Ganga aims to provides means for managing natural resources such as water.

Photo of Laura

Through Aakash Ganga, Sustainable Innovations truly exemplifies Peter Drucker's teachings on innovation. They have pioneered "a change that creates a new dimension of performance."


Laura, the next step is to scale up the new dimension -- grow the local water utility industry. Every village will have its own water utility. The communities and local governments will co-invest in the infrastructure. Aakash Ganga would give India a new development model to replace its fossilized "build-neglect-rebuild" model, (Reference: Lessons for Rural Water Supply by IRC International Center for Water and Sanitation). For the lack of annual monitoring and maintenance the rural systems become dis-functional quickly. The model will free up local governments of annual operational costs to maintain the system.

Photo of kavita padmanabhan

Aakash Ganga is addressing a crippling problem affecting remote areas of India. It is inspiring to see the impact that this model has already had on the lives of women and girls in the villages in which it has been implemented.

Photo of Vijay Raina

This Akash Ganga /River from the sky...is specially suitable for arid regions of Rajasthan in India and where Rain water harvesting is most needed.
I wish the project all success


Thank you, Vijay. I will keep marching to bring water to the people who need it most.

Photo of Brij Bhushan

Sustainability of Akash Ganga is laudable because of villagers' ownership stakes and low cost


Brij, when I started sustainability meant "economic sustainability." It is during the visits to the villages I discovered the cultural, societal, political, operational, and other facets of sustainability.

Thanks for your interest in Aakash Ganga.

Photo of Ravi Ravindran

Water purification is very critical to remote villages in India. This is a novel idea to use existing satellite imaging available from the Indian Remote Sensing Center.


Thank you Ravi. The GIScorp volunteers were amazing. They undertook to pave the path and create map books for the villages. It is my ardent wish to engage IRSC.

Photo of aarthi vemana

A very well thought out solution to a crippling problem in Northern India.


Aarthi, your compliments fuel my enthusiasm.

Photo of Maggie Cotter

I believe this is an inspired project that will change a lot of lives and has been well thought out with the potential of success!


Good Morning, Maggie. I will take liberty to keep you posted of the program's progress.

Photo of Nick Cotter

Harvesting rainfall from rooftops is a relatively simple process that has proven effective in many parts of the world. Since the system described is comparatively inexpensive, and has a long life, the impact can be wide and enjoyed for decades. Clean water is absolutely vital to the health and well being of any community. This system will reduce the huge numbers afflicted by water borne diseases, and will free those tasked with searching for and collecting water, frequently polluted, to pursue other more productive activities. The potential health and economic benefits are enormous. This is a very worthwhile project.


Thank you, Nick. Yes, water-borne diseases are the primary cause of infant mortality. We just started another program, called Arogya, to deliver health care at the doorstep of a villager.

Photo of MW Wilson

Impressive project with inspiring, long term ramifications!


Wilson, when we conceived the utility industry model long-term sustainability was on our mind. The model had to be so simple that it can be explained in less than 10 words. With time we simplified the rainwater harvesting model to simply "rent the rooftops from homeowners and government."

Keep us pumped up.

Photo of Maria Royce

This is a brilliant project founded on knowledge of and sensitivity to the community it has been designed to help. One of the aspects I find the most admirable is that the structure of the plan lets the members of the community interact naturally without requiring them to change their approaches. At the same time it creates opportunity for positive change especially for the women and children. This is an expansion of an already working model that many other communities in India, as well as other countries, can benefit from.


Thank you maria for your astute observations. Yes, it took me time to "see the unseen" --- hidden value of cultural traditions and social norms -- and then to integrate them in the enterprise model.

Photo of Tom Wood

Very cool!


Sanwlod villagers echo your enthusiasm. Watch at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8DC4G2qQfA