Water systems lack the technology to incentivize responsible and effective use of water.

Access to water is considered a human right by the United Nations, however water delivery in low-income countries is fraught with challenges.

within Haiti as an example, poor spatial knowledge of existing water delivery points leads to inefficient coordination between NGOs attempting to tackle the issue. In addition, once installed, the cost to NGOs to keep a presence capable of taking care of the water pump can up to 3x the cost of installation, leaving many pumps becoming unusable over time. The burden of repair often falls to volunteer labor from village beneficiaries, but individuals lack consistent incentives to do so.

As pumps fall into disrepair and corruption scandals rock donor confidence in AID delivery in Haiti, a gap exists to create transparent records of water service points and improve incentives for local ownership of repair.

For those who do have access to water there are no incentives for saving water or sharing technology. For farmers using irrigation in water-scarce areas, incentivized cooperative use brings obvious mutual benefits, benefits to water providers, and by deduction to the region as a whole.

For farmers who need to access the financing for pump technology to irrigate highly productive land plots. With high cash yields, such as onions and tomatoes, converting to cash within 2 months, there is a strong need for technologies that can enable financing over-time in relation to use.

We propose to build system to track and record water usage on the blockchain to enable water providers and social enterprises to tackle each of these challenges through intelligent incentivization programs.

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Week One Log:

Our Team FITTS (better name coming) is working on the Environment challenge. Specifically, we are going after the problem that water systems lack the technology to incentivize responsible and effective use of water.

Access to water is considered a human right by the United Nations, however water delivery in low-income countries is fraught with challenges. We plan to focus on the 4 following use cases, beginning with the 1st and scaling the capability of the protocol to integrate with all 4.

  1. Poor spatial knowledge of existing water delivery points within low-income countries, for example Haiti, leads to inefficient coordination between NGOs attempting to tackle the issue. In addition, once installed, the cost to NGOs to keep a presence capable of taking care of the water pump can up to 3x the cost of installation, leaving many pumps becoming unusable over time. The burden of repair often falls to volunteer labor from village beneficiaries, but individuals lack consistent incentives to do so.

  2. As pumps fall into disrepair and corruption scandals rock donor confidence in AID delivery in Haiti, a gap exists to create transparent records of water service points and improve incentives for local ownership of repair.

  3. For those who do have access to water there are no incentives for saving water or sharing technology. For farmers using irrigation in water-scarce areas, incentivized cooperative use brings obvious mutual benefits, benefits to water providers, and by deduction to the region as a whole.

  4. Some farmers pump technology to irrigate highly productive land plots but lack the financing options to purchase them. With high cash yields, such as onions and tomatoes, converting to cash within 2 months, there is a strong need for technologies that can enable financing over-time in relation to use.

We propose to build a system to track and record water usage on the blockchain to enable water providers and social enterprises to tackle each of these challenges through intelligent incentivization programs.

So why is blockchain needed to solve this problem?

Blockchain unlocks the ability to create a transparent record of water usage, as well as the ability to create intelligent incentives by linking tokens to water use.

For each of the identified use cases, this blockchain protocol has potential for transformative impact.

A distributed ledger tracking the location and usage of water service points enables coordination between the many non-profits engaged in water delivery in low-income countries, such as Haiti. By creating an open, immutable data record that any NGO can access, we can also improve the coordination of NGO-driven water delivery by revealing the network of effective water points to all actors. This data source also empowers NGOs to reduce maintenance costs by incentivising local labor through tokens redeemable for cash or desired products/services.

Smart contracts can be leveraged to transparently track payments to operations and maintenance and to unlock payments in relation to outcomes. Through Blockchain and IOT technology we can create a trust layer to prove regular use of local water points, and leverage this data to improve donor confidence and secure funds to incentivize and pay local labor for repairs.

Incentivization of conservation of water can be encouraged through smart contracts that disburse tokens in relation to water usage targets. These credits could then be traded across farmers, redeemed for discounts on water costs, or redeemed for vouchers on inputs for farming. By partnering with third-parties interested in marketing farming inputs to a captive audience of farmers there is opportunity to create value without direct subsidization.

Farmers can cooperatively purchase expensive solar water pump technology and then allocate use, verified by water sensors, through tokens that track usage.

And how do we size the global market for water.....

The big picture demand for sustainable water use is unquantifiably large. With the OECD projecting that demand will increase by 55% between 2000 and 2050, and with climate experts projecting that by 2025 severe weather stress will put further strain on increasingly scarce resources, it is clear that we need systems to manage water usage and scarcity.

For low-income countries, the economic case is clear for the NGO sector, governments and multilaterals to continue investment. Each $1 invested in water and sanitation is projected to return US $4.30. Meaning that while $28bn is needed annually to meet the demand from unserved global poor, this money can return $120bn in value.

Looking at the potential application for our 1st use case within a given country, such as Haiti, the estimated demand is colossal. While studies estimate that 55.2% of the population do have access to an improved water source, specialists project that up to 50% of these pumps will be broken within 3-5 years. With a population of 10.85 million in Haiti, this means that 3m will be nearby a broken pump. With an addressable market of 1% within Haiti (as a conservative figure, and setting aside the scalability of our solution to other geographic markets and other use cases), we project an addressable target market of 30,000 individuals.

We recognize at this stage that we have a lot more work to do in developing a commercial valuation of the size of market, as well as in developing a comparison of addressable markets across each of our suggested use cases. This will be a core focus over the coming weeks as we validate our assumptions and refine our customer profiles through direct user research.

There are several companies who have taken a smart meter approach to managing access to water.

Companies like ewaterpay and watertekafrica are working to reduce costs to utility providers through pre-paid meters, which secure payments and encourage investment into long-term infrastructure solutions by utilities that are able to recover their cash. Similar platforms have also been developed by companies like nanoganesh, designed specially for irrigation and productive use.

Oxford University and SweetSense, have been experimenting with remote sensing to respond to broken-down water points, with strong results. Before sensors were installed 44% of pumps were broken at a given time, taking ~7 months for repair. After their system was installed this plummeted to 9% of pumps broken at a given time with repair taking 26 days.

We see the emergence and success of these projects as validation that users can adapt to interacting within sensor-enabled water systems within low-income communities, and that sensor technology can be leveraged to create new payment models and response systems.

Blockchain offers several advantages on top of these approaches, both through improved transparency, as well as the ability to create alternative incentivization models that do not depend on fee-for-service at the point of use. This opens up options to extend this technology to the very poorest, as well as to reduce the cost of supplying water to those able to pay (for example farmers using water for productive use), such as new business models that leverage third-party partnerships to deliver redeemable vouchers.

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