How to achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all?

The Sustainable Development Goal on water as defined by the United Nations states that : “accessible water for all is an essential part of the world we want to live in and there is sufficient fresh water on the planet to achieve this. However, due to bad economics or poor infrastructure, millions of people including children die every year from diseases associated with inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene…”

There is a clear need for technical solutions to achieve universal and equitable access to clean and affordable drinking water. However, these technical solutions should also be acceptable to the local communities. Consequently, designers of such solutions must align their research and innovation with the values, needs, and expectations of society. This approach is referred to as Responsible Innovation.

To train students and young professionals in Responsible Innovation skills, the Dutch RiConfigure partner ISPT has created a student challenge that deals with the clean water goal as expressed by the United Nations. In this challenge, the students must develop proposals for technical solutions to the problems with contamination of groundwater by arsenic in Bangladesh. These solutions have to be both acceptable to local communities and effective and affordable. The contamination of groundwater in Bangladesh is one of the largest occurrences of poisoning in the history and the scale of this environmental poisoning disaster is greater than ever seen before. At present the contamination has affected 59 of the 64 districts in Bangladesh where arsenic levels have been found above the accepted limit. It is estimated that about 125 million inhabitants of Bangladesh between 35 million and 77 million are at risk of drinking contaminated water.

The students’ solution to this challenge must cope not just with technical/chemical and process technological requirements but must also be affordable and accepted by end users and all local stakeholders. The winner was selected by an expert jury. The winning proposal focused at the usage of regional rainwater basins in combination with SONO filtration to be used by groups of families. An additional education program and financing scheme must create awareness and acceptation of the chosen solution.

The challenge is available for educational institutes under a Common Creative License agreement.

For more information contact ISPT or the RICONFIGURE project.