Expanding access to clean water: the quest of a Swiss water entrepreneur

Author:Catherine Jewell
Position:Communications Division
SUMMARY

Renaud de Watteville is a Swiss water entrepreneur with a vision – to provide the world’s poorest communities with clean drinking water at an affordable price and, at the same time, create jobs and support community development. This is in fact the shared goal of the two entities he established. The first, Swiss Fresh Water, is a private company based in Switzerland. It focuses on developing... (see full summary)

 
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Today, one in 10 people in the world lack access to safe drinking water. The consequences for the health and livelihoods of those living in affected communities are far reaching.

WIPO Magazine recently met with Mr. de Watteville to find out more about how Swiss Fresh Water and the Access to Water Foundation are tackling this global challenge and how innovation and intellectual property are supporting their work.

How did you get into the water business?

In the course of my travels I came across many poor communities in developing countries where people had no choice but to drink dirty or brackish water. I saw the negative impact this was having on their lives. So when the opportunity arose, I began working on a water treatment system that provides people in these communities with access to a clean and safe water supply. That’s how I came to set up Swiss Fresh Water and Access to Water.

What is the relationship between Swiss Fresh Water and the Access to Water Foundation?

Swiss Fresh Water is a social enterprise that develops and produces low-cost water treatment units supported by an online service platform. We believe that a technology without maintenance has no future. Access to Water is a non-profit organization that was created with a grant from Swiss Fresh Water in 2012. It runs programs that set up water kiosks that use Swiss Fresh Water machines so communities get access to clean water. In this way, we create opportunities for employment and community development. Today, Swiss Fresh Water and Access to Water are strictly independent of each other.

Swiss Fresh Water and Access to Water believe everyone should have access to safe water at an affordable and acceptable price. Our aim is to improve living conditions on site, generate income opportunities, enable children to go to school (they no longer have to spend time fetching water for their families), and support social cohesion, local economic development thanks to job creation, safeguard the environment and slow rural-urban migration. That is why we focus on producing water on site.

Swiss Fresh Water’s mission is to make low-cost, high-quality machines that are easy to install, efficient, user-friendly, affordable, and supported with good service via the Internet.

Six years ago we launched our first pilot project in Senegal. We quickly realized we had to separate our for-profit and our non-profit activities. Swiss Fresh Water had to remain for-profit to secure investors and attract...

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