A Vision for Democratizing Water

We together can solve drinking water worldwide; here’s how we get started… Thoughts?

People need three resources to live: air, water, and food. I’ve sometimes heard these called the 3–3’s: 3 minutes of survival without air, 3 days without water, 3 weeks without food. When you think about it, we basically own the air we breathe- it’s there every time we take a breath. But that’s not the case with water- something that almost none of us on earth own access or security to- yet we all need to live. Looking at the state of water around the world and in the US (yes, here too), I believe this is humanity’s biggest problem.

My team at Zero Mass Water spent years looking for a way for people to own their drinking water. We developed SOURCE, solar panels that make water from air, to be infrastructure-independent. SOURCE produces clean, great-tasting drinking water from air using only the power of the sun. It is the only technology that is both free of waste and free from water or energy infrastructure (that’s right, no pipe connection, just air as an input; and no electrical connection, just the sun for energy). Not to mention that the water produced tastes great- similar to the most expensive bottled water brands. When you think about all the places that need water in the US & around the world (homes, schools, clinics, offices) it’s clear that SOURCE can dramatically improve people’s lives.

Why You Should Buy SOURCE

It will change your life, and the lives of people all over the world. I have two SOURCE panels at my house, and we have an array of six at ZMW’s headquarters. It is amazing: in the middle of the Sonoran Desert my kids fill up their bottles before school from our tap in the kitchen, I make my coffee with SOURCE water, and we fill up our glasses at mealtime. We own our drinking water; my family relies on nothing but the sun coming up to ensure that the water is there. When we start selling online with a model similar to the one below, you too can purchase SOURCE panels (or very soon depending on where you live), store solar energy in a glass, offset carbon and pollution associated with bottled water, and have truly off-grid water that is mind-blowingly good.

There is something very special about having security and convenience with water no matter where you live. We were in Ecuador installing pilot panels at the homes of families in a very low-income community when I really understood the magic of what SOURCE does. We went back to one family’s home after installing the previous day & a little girl no more than 4 years old drank a glass of water we made. And it hit me (even after working on the technology for several years, and with a dream of enabling this moment, it was at that instant that the human impact became deeply palpable and personal). This was the first glass of clean water she could drink without boiling it first. The impact SOURCE will have on her life now and in the future was inspiring and has motivated me to bring this solution to the world ever since.

The Challenge

As I mentioned in my previous note, we have gotten a great deal of interest from folks in the US who want to buy SOURCE for their homes. But it’s simply not good enough to sell SOURCE to folks near the top of the economic spectrum. Solving a problem like water across the globe will take the right implementation model. We have to figure out how to make SOURCE affordable for people everywhere. And we don’t have time to wait.

We’ve looked at various models for base-of-the-pyramid deployments, from donating to 1-for-1 type approaches. Donation feels good, but when that’s been the model (for example, when NGO’s donated solar lanterns in East Africa), it hurts the market, fails to recognize economic agency, and it isn’t sustainable. To sell SOURCE in those markets, we would have to hit substantial scale in order to price SOURCE reasonably- this will take time the world doesn’t have to wait. That is why we are seeking a better way. We’ve developed a new model, one that bridges the economic gap while accelerating emerging market access. We want your feedback, because we need to get this right. I ask you to join us in democratizing water around the world by helping us find the best way to bring SOURCE panels to everyone.

The Model: Water Democratized

While SOURCE pays back quickly today in places like California and Arizona, it will take time and scale for it to be affordable everywhere.

We’re excited to begin offering panels online, but we want anyone who purchases panels to be part of the worldwide solution. Water is democratized with SOURCE, and we want people to be democratizers.

We want you as an online customer to be an amplifier of impact. When you purchase SOURCE panels for your home, you will own your water for the first time. In order to purchase that panel, we will ask you to split the cost of an additional panel with Zero Mass Water. The panel that you split with us will go to a community of your choosing, a family who will leapfrog poor or non-existent infrastructure. As their SOURCE gets installed you will accelerate water democratization. You get to choose the region and then our partners around the world identify families with little or no clean water (to start with, located in Latin America, the Middle East, and underserved in the US). These families will not receive a panel for free, but will instead purchase it for the cost of getting it to them and installing it. Together, both households own their water.

By choosing not to give panels away, we recognize the purchasing power of all households, drive the local economy through our installation and service ecosystem, and preserve the market for this and other technological solutions so that when we achieve scale families everywhere can buy their SOURCE. With each purchase, we are one step closer to universal water security through ownership- one step closer to water, democratized.

Could you please provide your thoughts on Water Democratized to WDFeedback@zeromasswater.com? I’m interested in specific thoughts on improving the approach, as well as NGO’s that would be interested in expanding our regional capacity. Warmest regards.