Project Details

Close up of fresh water


Bringing affordable drinking water to 'last mile' communities.

By Piramal Foundation

Project URL:
Project Twitter: @sarvajal

  • Economic Empowerment
  • Environment & Sustainability
  • Health
  • Geolocation
  • Physical Computing

For the first time in modern history society’s thirst for fresh water, driven by population growth and agriculture, is set to outstrip supply using current technologies. Water shortages could hold back growth and development, provoking growing inequalities and tensions. Attempts to overcome those shortages using the traditional infrastructures of bigger dams or even diverting the course of rivers threatens only greater environmental damage. Pumping water from aquifers deep underground will be hugely costly because of the energy required. One of the biggest innovation challenges of the century to come will be the reinvention of our relationship with our most basic, life-enhancing resource: water.

Sarvajal is just one example of how digital technology is encouraging new, more sustainable solutions.

Launched in 2008 by the visionary Piramal Foundation, Sarvajal has built on the lessons of an earlier entrant into the market, Naandi, to develop a market-based model for supplying drinking water to communities in India, often remote, rural villages which are not on the mains water system. The Sarvajal solution ingeniously combines highly sophisticated hardware and software with a franchise model designed to give local entrepreneurs the ability to create a sustainable business and offer an affordable service.

Sarvajal has provided more than 150 franchisees with training, filtration equipment and maintenance services. All the equipment is managed and monitored via a cloud-based system, a bit like ATMs but for water – AWMs. The Sarvajal purification plant can be installed inside a shop or someone’s house. Users can either pay in cash or using a pre-paid card of the kind used with mobile phones. The AWM provides 24-hour access to water at a cost of around $3 per month per houshold. With Franchisees retaining 60% of the profits, they are typically able to employ two to three people: Sarvajal estimates their franchises have created around 400 new jobs so far.

For the team, this is just the beginning. They are operating in just six of India’s 28 states so far and expect to spread further in the years to come, providing a network of clean, sustainable and affordable water sources.

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Last updated: 09th of May, 2014

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