Net Zero Grid-Tied Rainwater Harvesting Systems: Sustainable Solutions for Municipal Governments

Neta Cero uses technologies and educational processes to better living conditions and increase resilience among marginalized populations.

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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

Neta Cero

Year founded


Initiative stage

  • Scaling (the solution has passed the previous stages and is growing its impact on a regional or global scale)

Annual budget in 2017 (USD)

  • $10k - $50k

Number of beneficiaries impacted so far

  • 10,000 - 50,000

Organization type

  • Social enterprise

Secondary Focus Area

  • Rural development

Headquarters location: Country

  • Mexico

Headquarters location: City

Mexico City, México

Location(s) of impact

Country: México City A: Huautla de Jimenez, Oaxaca City B: Puebla, Puebla City C: Mexico City


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Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?

Throughout México every day, millions of people spend hours walking to and from rivers or springs carrying water, millions more spend much of their income on water since their pipes are dry. To address this, municipalities spend most of their operating budget on water trucks while other needs of their highly marginalized constituents are unmet. Ironically, even in areas with abundant rainfall, water remains scarce for human use, leading us to focus on the opportunity hidden within this problem.

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

Our business plan is eliminating the inefficiencies in service provision to create shared value for our business, municipalities and communities. We create net zero rainwater harvesting systems with purification and interconnection to existing water grids. In the municipal hospital of Huautla, Oaxaca, we are installing our largest system to date which will produce enough water to meet more than 100% of the demand for the hospital for 10 months of the year while the surplus will be delivered to the surrounding neighborhood. Concurrently, our program Escuelas Azules will provide manuals and trainings which teach beneficiaries how to maintain the system. The hospital system will save the municipality the cost of two water trucks/day and the hospital will finally have the water it needs to take care of patients. The increase in supply for neighborhood families will allow them to use the time and money they spent on water for other productive activities and improve their quality of life.

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

By the end of 2017, Neta Cero will have installed 2,309 systems in homes, schools, and institutions across México, capturing approx. 80,000 m3 of clean water to date. The hospital system is part of a project with 8 large-scale community systems connected to municipal grids in the Sierra Mazateca. These systems create the most impact relative to the required investment (20-year lifetime cost of $1.06 USD per m3) as well as generating the lowest carbon footprint (0.02 kg per m3). These systems reduce the financial and environmental cost of pumping water, meet suppressed demand, and can allow communities to leapfrog over unsustainable service provision, therefore mitigating climate change while improving climate resilience. Impacts on communities include saving approximately 15,000–30,000 hours fetching water per system per year as well as improved hygiene, increased water consumption and consequentially better school attendance as well as simply one less worry for poor families.

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

Our initiative is 76% financially supported by the income we earn designing and installing rainwater harvesting systems. Federal funds for public works means even the most resource-strapped municipality is able to initiate a project if they see the benefit. The ever-decreasing supply of water and ever-increasing costs of pumping means that projects will become more attractive as municipalities struggle to comply with the human right to water in México. The other 24% comes from grants and donations to fund our SOFTWARE component, a key part of our methodology which is not considered for public works funding.

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

Harvesting the rain is not new, but Neta Cero is the first company in the world to scale up this practice to the municipal level, injecting water into existing grids. We take advantage of existing public infrastructure (roofs and water grids) to maximize the benefit-cost ratio. Neta Cero systems outperform conventional piped-water systems in every financial performance parameter: net present value, cost to benefit, lifetime return on investment, etc.

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

In 2013, I founded my company and completed the first Net Zero projects in rural schools in the Sierra Mazateca, Oaxaca that included rainwater harvesting and purification among other eco-technologies. In this area, I observed a particular confluence of conditions: abundant rain, large metal roofs in every community, and municipal water grids with inadequate supply - in a region where less than 10% of the population has adequate water access. The local mayor saw my work and asked me to advise him. When I put myself in the mayor’s shoes, who has the responsibility to provide water to his population with a limited budget, I saw he would want the biggest bang for his buck. So I designed community and municipal-scale rainwater harvesting interventions that maximized the benefit-to-cost ratio. The mayor saw the value and Neta Cero became a municipal contractor building 3 large-scale systems.

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

  • Ashoka page or contact


Join the conversation:

Photo of Jonathan Litscher

Such a convincing solution solution to water shortage, compared to transporting water around in trucks! Great to see how a simple concept can have a large impact when scaled in the right way. Congratulations and all the best to your project!

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