Sanitary water is a prerequisite for leading healthy human lives. And yet, today, one in nine people lack access to safe water. Every two minutes a child dies from a water-related disease. Beyond direct health impacts, lack of sanitary water poses a huge problem for the development of communities.
With these things in mind, it's no wonder why clean water and sanitation is number six of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). But what are people doing to address the issue?
Clean water for classrooms
The UBS Optimus Foundation has begun partnering with Impact Water – a social business trying to combat this crisis head on by delivering sustainable, safe water to schools in developing countries. They sell, install and maintain water purification systems. The systems use established technologies and perform effectively with relatively simple, scheduled preventive maintenance.
By installing water purification systems in schools, Impact Water is able to reach efficiently a large number of children. Since they launched in 2014, they have developed offices in Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria, supplying over 5,000 schools and over 3,000,000 children with affordable, safe drinking water.
In addition to reaching larger groups of children, installing systems in schools also allows to reduce waterborne infection incidences, and keep more children in schools.
Impact Water customizes its payment terms according to individual schools' cash flows. The timing of installment payments is tailored to the school's funding ability and normally tied to the cycle of school fee payments. For schools, this makes the payment cycle much more manageable.
Individuals can be powerful
We talk a lot at UBS in society about the fallacy that individuals are powerless in the face of huge global concerns. It's a dangerous assumption and one we actively oppose. From a financial perspective, there's a lot we can do with clients to promote clean water and sanitation too:
- Investing in water infrastructure and affordable water purification – low income populations account for USD 5 trillion in global spending every year, and providing access to affordable drinking water has proved to be an unmet market opportunity.
- Water sharing partnerships (WSIP) – can help ease water scarcity problems by conserving and restoring water ecosystems. WSIP's use investor capital to earn water rights, which is leased to the market and brought back to the environment.
- Agriculture – investing in innovative irrigation technologies will reduce inefficient water usage.
- Water recycling programs – investments have proven critical in preserving groundwater resources, particularly in China, India and Brazil.
The value of investments can go down as well as up. Your capital and income is at risk.