Affordable reverse osmosis potable water systems for rural areas with arsenic and fluoride contamination
Portable reverse osmosis systems that can be shared by several families in rural towns, providing potable water free of arsenic or fluoride.
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.
Centro de Tecnologías para el Agua y el Ambiente, A.C.
Established (the solution has passed the previous stages and demonstrated success)
Annual budget in 2017 (USD)
Number of beneficiaries impacted so far
Nonprofit, NGO, or citizen sector
Secondary Focus Area
Headquarters location: Country
Headquarters location: City
Santiago de Querétaro (Querétaro State)
Location(s) of impact
México: San Luis de La Paz
México: Dolores Hidalgo
México: San Diego de la Unión
México: San Miguel Allende
meeting in a mexican village to show how the CENTAM reverse osmosis systems are used
general view of a CENTAM portable rural reverse osmosis system
Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?
Ground water in many areas in Central Mexico is naturally contaminated with arsenic and fluoride, and directly impacts the health of the rural population, resulting in kidney disease, cardiovascular problems, diabetes, and broken teeth and osteoporosis due to fluoride. Collection of rain water has proven impractical (as well as expensive, due to the requirements of large cisterns, as these areas have high aridity). Bottled water is available but very expensive in the rural mexican context.
Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?
Our organization has developed simple and robust water treatment systems using reverse osmosis technology, including standard off-the-shelf pumps that are easy to repair in rural villages. The quality of the purified water amply meets mexican water standards (as well as international WHO guidelines), and provides a sustainable and economical source of potable water, preventing serious health issues.
The equipment cost averages less than USD 100 per family when it is shared by 5 families, and can go as low as USD 70 to 75 when 10 families shared a single (larger) system. The CENTAM systems provide reverse osmosis water with a real operational cost of approx. 0.01 USD/liter (1 USD cent/liter). A large economic as health benefit is associated with the use of these on-site systems in the rural communities.
Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work
A shared potable water solution such as has been implemented by using the CENTAM systems has provided several benefits in all the communities where the systems have been installed (more than 50 villages up to 2017):
- the families have access to all the potable water that they need, with a very affordable cost.
- many health issues are prevented, avoiding extremely negative impacts in the communities that might sometimes wipe out all the family savings (such as with kidney disease and dyalisis).
- there is absolutely zero waste of water, because the reject water from the CENTAM reverse osmosis units is reused in the homes for cleaning, irrigating, etc. (the design of the systems use a low recuperation factor, and the reject water coming out is slightly higher in dissolved salts than the raw water, a specific design choice when developing the systems).
- almost 5,000 rural inhabitants have received the CENTAM systems thanks to government grants, in almost 50 different villages.
Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?
2. Almost the totality of the organization´s income during the last 6 years (when we started our operational phase) has been received from mexican federal government grants, managed by our implementation partner, the Ibero University in Guanajuato State.
4. Less than 5% of annual income has been from equipment sales to individuals and institutions (public schools).
5. At the end of 2017 we are developing a new resource-generation channel, through the supply of equipments to state and municipal water authorities, who are considering the CENTAM solution to water potabilization as a valid, cost-effective, and reliable answer to water issues in small communities.
Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?
Our initiative has the possibility of a long-term sustainability due to the fact that maintenance costs are extremely low and fully affordable by the rural inhabitants. Dependence on government help is not needed for the continued use of the systems, and the model of equipment sharing even allows several groups of families to buy systems with their own monetary resources (this last growth channel still needs wider implementation of the CENTAM water treatment systems with government help).
Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.
I decided to start the CENTAM non-profit organization in 2009 after more than 15 years working in the private water sector, doing mainly industrial and municipal projects. But I always had the impression that the challenge of potable water in small communities, where it was most needed, was going to be very difficult to solve in that context.
In 2011 I had the opportunity to meet an established organization trying find reliable solutions for potable water supply in small villages, and suddenly realized that I could apply my previous experience in order to design a small and robust reverse osmosis system specifically adapted to rural family use.
Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?