Paper for pennies, Water for billions

The world's first water filter for pennies, not dollars: nanosilver-infused Folia Filter papers.

Photo of Jonathan Levine
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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

Folia Water

Year founded


Initiative stage

  • Start-Up (a pilot that has just started operating)

Annual budget in 2017 (USD)

  • $50k - $100k

Number of beneficiaries impacted so far

  • 1,000 - 5,000

Organization type

  • For-profit

Secondary Focus Area

  • Water

Headquarters location: Country

  • United States of America

Headquarters location: City

San Francisco

Location(s) of impact

Mexico: Mexico City Philippines: Manila Zambia: Lusaka And more to be added.


Facebook URL

Twitter URL

Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?

2.1 billion people drink contaminated unsafe drinking water leading to 500,000 deaths per year and there exist no commercial product that can effectively solve this problem at an affordable price for the consumers in the base of the pyramid (BOP). Households in the BOP cannot easily afford to pay for durable-good water filters which have high upfront costs (at least $20) and bottled water is not a sustainable option either. People need a new way to consume safe drinking water.

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

Unlike existing water filters that are sold as appliances with high upfront purchasing price, our product costs pennies and can be sold through existing food and beverage retail channels, i.e. kiosks and grocery stores. . If successful, our product will have created a new sub-category (i.e. water filters) of fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) under the food and beverage sector, and will have become a routine staple for billions of consumers around the world.

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

The importance and impact of safe water are well known: reduced disease, increased productivity, etc. Our invention, Folia Filters, is the result of a decade of research by our CTO. Our filters' antimicrobial effectiveness has been verified by third-party labs during our field trials. As we grow to commercial scale and establish our product as a routine staple, hundreds of millions of people in the base of the pyramid (BOP) will gain agency over their own access to safe, germ-free water.

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

Our immediate goal is to achieve profitability with our current business model. Under our current business model and rate of growth, we expect to reach a break-even point by 2019 and become financially self-sufficient. In addition to revenue generated, we will raise funds from investors at each stage of our growth to support execution of our strategic growth plans. Source of our annual budget will be a mix of earned income and private investment.

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

While silver as a biocide is old and paper is old, silver paper is new. While all existing water filters are positioned as durable-goods appliances, our filter is positioned as a fast-moving-consumer-good (FMCG) that competes with products such as bottled water. Our initiative, if successful, will define a new consumer goods water filter product category and will significantly reduce consumption of expensive plastic water bottles.

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

My name is Dr. Jonathan Levine and I am the CEO of Folia Water. Part of my Ph.D. research was investigating water purification on the back of pickup trucks as part of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. It was clear that appropriate and affordable product selection was a key requirement for a scalable and sustainable solution. Then, I met Dr. Teri Dankovich. Teri’s invention was special in the sense that it’s not just another water filter that is similar to what’s already out there. The product was simple to use and affordable even for those with daily incomes below $10, which translates to scalability. Teri and I ended up teaming up and launching a company: Folia Water. The world’s first water filter that costs pennies, not dollars. Now, our vision is for our filters to be sold next to bread, eggs and milk for the billions of people.

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

  • Upon recommendation from others


Join the conversation:

Photo of Amanda Smith

It is really a great project! Cheap clean water is one of the most necessary resources on our planet! My company is really concerned about this problem. We try to donate money from our academical writings to such projects.


idea is good. Cost and convenience will be the issues.

Photo of Sage Lancaster

Hi Jonathan. Thanks so much for sharing your idea. I am so glad that you are focusing on a cheap alternative to bottled water and expensive filters that will be able to benefit many more people. It is definitely worth emphasizing the amazing amount of water bottles that these filters will replace- at great benefit to the environment. Is your main goal to target countries and communities that will be able to afford these water filters over other more expensive ones? You mentioned getting these to people in the BOP, but how are you choosing what areas of the world to expand to? So interesting! Best of luck.

Photo of Jonathan Levine

Thanks for commenting Jessica. Yes, as we scale up its certainly likely that we will strategically locate manufacturing in country, closer to end users.

Photo of Jessica Aguirre

Hello Jonathan Levine . It is such a unique and interesting solution to provide clean and safe water. You definitely have the advantage of accessibility and price compared with those water filters sold to consumers.
I understand that one of the major hurdles of your competitors - existing water filters- is the cost of distribution. As you continue to grow, have you considered having your manufacturing facilites in close proximity to those communities that your helping? I know that your business model is being the distributor but perhaps as you expand is viable to have strategic manufacturing points.
Best of luck with your initiative. If you have some time, I will appreciate if you could take a look at my idea. Regards!