Improving education through safe drinking water in Uganda

Impact Water

At a glance

The UBS Optimus Foundation, in partnership with Rockefeller Foundation, has developed an innovative solution to finance clean water provision in schools to help boost children’s educational performance.

The social enterprise Impact Water Uganda provides safe drinking water to schools through an affordable package of systems, maintenance and credit.

The partners

Impact Water Uganda sells, installs and maintains water purification systems, which use established technologies such as ultrafiltration and UV treatment. These systems perform effectively for decades with preventive maintenance, which is carried out approximately twice a year. Credit services, provided by Impact Water Uganda, allow schools to pay for their systems over time, typically within two years, and installment payments are timed to coincide with a school's cash flows patterns.

The problem

Building new schools is capital intensive, and schools have difficulty in paying for infrastructure investments due to the high up-front costs and their own staggered income pattern (paid per school term). As a result, safe water solutions are often not prioritized.

The advantage of clean water installations are:

  • Reduced incidence of waterborne illnesses;
  • Reduced absenteeism in schools; and
  • Parents choose schools with better infrastructure. 

The solution

The UBS Optimus Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation have teamed up to provide a loan for impact. This is structured as five-year USD 500,000 loan with an additional USD 200,000 impact component. Once defined impact targets start to be met the Rockefeller Foundation will pay an extra return to the Foundation as the upfront funder (60 percent) as well as to Impact Water Uganda (40 percent).


The evidence

A pilot, run from 2012 to 2014, succeeded in selling 75 institutional safe water systems and demonstrated clearly a compelling case for both the provision of clean water and accelerated growth. 

This pilot provided evidence of the willingness and ability of schools to pay for such systems, their technology preferences, and effective methods of installation and maintenance.

Increasing access to safe drinking water is a key factor in reducing the global disease burden.1  And a lower disease burden has a direct effect on reducing school absenteeism and thus improved educational outcomes.

The Impact

Impact Water Uganda aims to sell and install 3,600 systems in five years, with an average of 400 beneficiaries per system. This equates to 1.4 million beneficiaries in total. 

The WHO estimates such improvements reduce absenteeism by three days per student.2

Impact Water works towards SDGs: