Safe drinking water

We want to develop technologies through open innovation that could bring safe water to the world's poorest people - for less than 1 cent per litre.

The challenge

Globally, more than 1.5 billion people lack access to safe drinking water – and contaminated water is the cause of 4 million deaths each year.

The most vulnerable people live in some of the poorest parts of the world, where water infrastructure improvements are likely to be slow in coming, or just unaffordable.

We are committed to providing safe, affordable drinking water to 500 million people by 2020. We are looking for design or technological solutions to the challenge of providing safe water at an affordable price – less than 1 cent per litre – and we welcome approaches from potential partners who share our commitment.

What is safe drinking water?

To meet our challenge, we need to generate water that is:

  • free of parasitical organisms (protozoanoocysts such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia lamblia, Legionella)

  • free of bacteria (coliform bacteria, E. coli, Vibrio cholera)

  • free of viruses (enteric)

  • free of soil, chemicals, and other physical contaminants

What we're thinking?

We have some ideas for areas where innovation could meet this challenge:

  • Solar water disinfection: Exposure to sunlight deactivates diarrhoea-causing organisms.

  • Filtration: Filters might consist of paper, porous solids (ceramics), high-tech membrane, clean sand or diatomaceous earth.

  • Atmospheric collection technologies: Rainwater harvesting, fog collection, air wells, and other atmospheric collection technologies could all collect water that requires little treatment.

What we need

We're open to working with partners who can help with the solutions we're already considering – or who have a technological idea we haven't thought of at all. But any solution must meet some key requirements:

  • Affordability. The solution must produce clean drinking water at less than 1 cent per litre.

  • Practicality. It must produce water in quantities that meet consumers' needs and be easily used at a local or even individual level. A technology that only produces millilitres of water at a time would not be useful.

  • Low technology. The people who have greatest need of clean water may not have access to high technology equipment – or electricity.

Could you help us create a better future?

If you have a design or technological idea that could help us meet this challenge, we'd like to hear from you.

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