Decentralized Water Purification Strategies in Haiti

The Historical Problem

Haiti has severe market constraints in its water sector, and clean water distribution is often poor due to the nature of it being traveled far distances by truck. For this reason, only about one third of Haiti’s urban poor and rural poor have access to clean water (Access to Water in Haiti, 2010). 

Detailed assessments of water resource have occurred in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake and also outlined that contamination has several other sources. These types of analyses have confirmed water contamination in various areas, throughout existing regions in large part due to the rupturing of groundwater pipes and the emerging cholera crisis (Knox, 2012). Solutions need to come on board now to help improve the health of the country, because even the country itself has a lot of groundwater, it just needs to be filtered and distributed properly (Haiti: The Water Challenges Ahead, 2010).

 

Solution and Technologies Involved

When the water supply in Port-au-Prince was examined in 1998 (Collignon), there was over 80% of the water supplied by private operators, such as borehole operators, water trucking businesses, and private reservoir operators. This represented 5-10% of the money that circulates in the city, and 90% of the jobs in the water sector at that time (Collignon, 1998).     

Potential decentralized water treatment facility (Dlo Haiti, 2013)

Potential decentralized water treatment facility (Dlo Haiti, 2013)

Countries that strive towards clean water innovation in today’s climate can do so in a productive way economically. Investors in ‘blue tech’ are now finding that treating water closer to its source is a more effective way to pave the future for water availability for all (Gies, 2011). Investing in Haiti’s water future would be a wise one because of the potential it has for decentralized water use (Private Sector Development, 2011).

DloHaiti is a for-profit company that provides safe drinking water to underserved communities in Haiti through some of the emerging strategies suggested above. Instead of relying on potable water from centrally purified companies and delivery trucks, they have decided to make a business model with eliminates this often harmful step in the traditional water process (Dlo Haiti, 2013). 

DloHaiti’s approach is to decentralize their water product, putting it closer to consumers. By using this approach, DloHaiti can lower their cost of water, improve water quality through stable and clean short transportation routes, as well as delivering services to people that are convenient and easily accessible (Dlo Haiti, 2013). 

When centers open in villages, they can employ locally, and train in a way that is inclusive rather than disjointed, avoiding larger water framework pitfalls. This way they can reach their target markets of under-served communities in peri-urban and rural areas, where most people pay a premium for water. Dlo Haiti hopes to tap the emerging market communities which don't use treated water at the moment but could possibly afford it soon with increasing quality of life and income. 

Decentralized water treatment facility opening ceremony (Dlo Haiti, 2013)

Decentralized water treatment facility opening ceremony (Dlo Haiti, 2013)

The impact of this kind of development is great and widespread. There is job creation outside of the main cities, ensuring high-quality entrepreneurial and skilled jobs. There is also economic savings by consumers for this new product. This goes without saying the improved public health from having clean water more readily available in underserved communities, leading to a decrease in disease and hospital visits. This type of approach also particularly addresses a growing concern with the new outbreak of cholera after the Haiti earthquake (Gies, 2011). 

This initiative is also attracting more investment into developing long-term growth in the local economy of Haiti. The lowest cost option for safe drinking water in Haiti before Dlo Haiti was 12¢ per gallon, or 80x that of clean drinking water in the US. With market research into new areas of the country, Dlo Haiti believes they can beat that price (Dlo Haiti, 2013).

Treatment center storage and mobility solutions (Dlo Haiti, 2013)

Treatment center storage and mobility solutions (Dlo Haiti, 2013)

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Public Acceptance of Project

An important aspect for DloHaiti is the need for international investment in a strong and supported business model. They believe that their solution will be an interesting investment strategy for the creation of jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities locally. They have already proven this public support for the great outreach villages have made when opening new treatment centers. There is also proof of public support with the large amount of investment they have received from the International Finance Corporation, Dutch Development Bank, Leopard Haiti Fund LP, and Miyamoto International. 

 

Financial Assessment

The socio-economic impact of a project on Dlo Haiti’s scale could be significant for the country. This type of project could create over 600 new jobs directly, with 95% of them being outside the capital. This type of large multi-facility project with serve over 145,000 beneficiaries, while saving Haitian water consumers over $350,000 annually. Over a five year projection, this project would create thousands of jobs, serve over 1 million beneficiaries, while saving Haitian water consumers over $2 million annually (Dlo Haiti, 2013). 

 

Is it replicable in different places where the same underlying problem exists?

One of Dlo Haiti’s newer projects is a 40-facility pilot in Haiti over 18-24 months. This is replicating their original model onto a larger scale. Its first deployment started in May 2013 in a neighborhood outside Port-au-Prince. This pilot will provide several water treatment facilities for water sales in their area. It is Dlo Haiti’s hope that if and when this 40 facility project is successful, they want a 300-kiosk deployment around the country, creating entrepreneurship and employment opportunities for working class Haitians. This type of scaling up is estimated to reach 5-8% of the population of Haiti who are currently beyond the limits of public infrastructure or water trucking (Dlo Haiti, 2013). Investors also believe this type of solution is successful in other countries, and was similarly implemented in rural Ghana with Community Water Solutions (for web - here).

 

The Main Learning Objectives?

I think the main learning objective is how readily this project has been developed over the last few years. It proves to show that if someone comes up with a solution, especially one that is more affordable than a competitor, adoption of a new strategy is pretty east to do. This decentralization of water resources, both for cost saving and increased purification standards, will be a new trend to transcend the developing world wherever there is a need for clean water. 

 

Access to Water in Haiti. Growing Inclusive Markets. 2010. <http://www.growinginclusivemarkets.org/publications/global/heat-maps/access-to-water-in-haiti/>. 

Collignon, Bernard. Private operators, the water service in areas of large cities and small centers in Africa. HydroConseil, France. 1998. 

Dlo Haiti. About Us. 2013. <http://www.dlohaiti.com/about-us.html>. 

Gies, Erica. New York Times, Energy & Environment. March 21, 2011. <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/22/business/energy-environment/22iht-rbog-innovation-22.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0>.

Haiti: The Water Challenges Ahead. 29 April, 2010. <http://www.water-technology.net/features/feature83743/>.

Knox, Richard. Water in the Time of Cholera, Haiti’s Most Urgent Health Problem. NPR. 12 April, 2012. <http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/04/13/150302830/water-in-the-time-of-cholera-haitis-most-urgent-health-problem>. 

Private Sector Development in Haiti: Opportunities for Investment, Job Creation and Growth. World Economic Forum. 2011. <http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Haiti_PrivateSectorDevelopment_Report_2011.pdf>.