Water treatment is proven to be a safe, effective, scalable, and low-cost way to remove disease-causing bacteria and pathogens — saving lives by making water safe to drink.
Globally, over 2 billion people don’t have access to safe water. This results in over one million preventable deaths each year — often from diseases like typhoid, cholera, and hepatitis A. Contaminated water is also the most common reason for diarrhea, the second-leading cause of death in children under five years old.
By ensuring water is safe to drink through solutions like chlorination, we're saving the lives of young children and helping families live healthier, more productive lives.
- people reached with access to safe water
- children reached with access to safe water
- chlorine dispensers in active use
- community volunteers engaged
We use two different interventions to deliver chlorine treatment directly to water points. Communities in Malawi, Uganda, and Kenya are provided with safe water at no cost to the families and individuals.
Through Dispensers for Safe Water, our network of chlorine dispensers stretches across rural communities, in areas that aren’t reached by municipal systems. A community member goes to their water source, places their bucket under the dispenser, turns the valve to dispense the correct dose of chlorine, and then fills their bucket with water. The chlorine disinfects the water during their walk home, so by the time they arrive, it’s safe to drink.
In places with communal piped water systems — often in peri-urban and urban communities — we use in-line chlorination devices, which are installed directly on water tanks. As water flows into pipes, it’s automatically chlorinated in the correct dose, so it’s treated and safe to drink by the time it reaches someone’s home.
With these two complementary interventions in our toolbox, we’re able to provide access to safe water in both rural and more urban areas, regardless of the type of water system used. This approach allows us to expand our reach, while also sharing operational resources to keep costs low.
Our safe water interventions are effective, scalable, and low-cost. The devices are simple, and every installation has local government and community buy-in. Here are some of the hallmarks of our unique approach to delivering access to safe water:
These interventions are designed to make behavioral change easy for the end user — or not require it at all! Our bright blue dispensers are installed right next to water sources, making it easy for people to remember to use them, and helping them build safe water practices into their routines. And with in-line chlorination, since the water is treated automatically as it flows through pipes, no action is required at all.
We engage local leaders and community members before installing chlorination devices. Through a series of meetings, the community can come together to learn about the program, and decide whether or not to proceed with it. In places where our chlorine dispensers are used, volunteer “promoters” are elected to encourage dispenser use and let us know when refills or repairs are needed.
Last mile service delivery
In order to reach more remote areas, we’ve had to build a far-reaching network and supply chain infrastructure. An important part of this is our circuit rider team, who deliver supplies on motorcycles. They brave hazardous road conditions to ensure dispensers are working properly – addressing any issues within 72 hours — and are always stocked with chlorine.
Real-time data and continuous improvement
We focus on a small set of real-time, actionable data, which allows us to dynamically measure and improve our programs. Our team measures program adoption monthly by visiting a sample of households to test their water for chlorine — a true metric of whether families are benefiting from safe drinking water. We also measure dispenser functionality and whether promoters are reaching their communities. And we’re always asking ourselves: What are our bottlenecks? Can we innovate on our dispenser design? Can we even further streamline our delivery model?
Water chlorination averts greenhouse gases, generating carbon credits that help sustain our safe water programming. Treating water through boiling typically requires the burning of wood or charcoal. This is financially burdensome to poor households, creates health risks related to smoke exposure, and has negative environmental impacts. By eliminating the need to boil water, chlorination creates “savings” in carbon emissions which, once certified, can be traded as carbon credits. The UNFCCC employs a rigorous audit process and has approved millions of carbon credits generated by Dispensers for Safe Water, which we reinvest directly into the program.
Our approach to safe water work is built on rigorous research by Nobel Laureate Michael Kremer and colleagues that found water treatment reduces under-five child mortality from all causes by around 25%. Their groundbreaking study also found that water treatment can save a child’s life for just $3,000, or add a year of healthy life for only $40.
Kremer’s team also tested chlorine dispensers against a variety of other water treatment interventions, and found that the dispensers model, with its use of community promoters, has a much higher usage rate and that usage stays high over time.
There is also strong evidence linking chlorination to health outcomes, since chlorine is effective at killing diarrhea-causing pathogens. It’s WHO-endorsed and safety concerns are minimal. Chlorine provides residual water protection for up to three days, meaning it can be stored safely at home.
Your gift to Safe Water Now will make an outsized, lifesaving impact on children and communities.