When the words emergency + relief + situations are combined, people usually associate it with extreme devastation scenarios produced by natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, landslides, tornados, or other nature's onslaught. Although it is an accurate assumption, such disasters are just a part of the picture that comprises what emergency relief situations are.

Emergency relief situations are then completed by the following scenarios:

  • Water resource depletion due to climate change.
  • Inexistence of water treatment and sanitation facilities in the area, with a high number of water-related diseases.
  • Hospitals without a steady and reliable water supply, putting population health at risk.
  • Prolonged droughts, attempting food safety and drinkable water access.
  • Schools without a steady and reliable water supply, attempting childer education.

Every emergency relief situation has its very particular factors. In general, they tend to enhance the vulnerability of the community it sets in, especially in isolated regions where the government's reach is less effective.

Hard water-facts about Latin America

- Access: Approx. 33 million people live in regions lacking water resources, most of them located in the Caribbean islands, Peru, and Bolivia.

- Conflicts: Most of the Caribbean Small Islands States have faced water shortage problems for the past 10 years, especially during tourism's high-demand seasons. This has increased the number of conflicts for water tenure between farmers, civilians, and touristic operators, starting a social discussion between economics, food safety, and human rights.

- Venezuelan humanitarian crisis: +4 million people have left Venezuela in the past 4 years with a refugee status to different Latam countries, some of them without sufficient water resources to sustain its indigenous population. This increases refugees' vulnerability, as well as the locals.

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Our Freemium Model

Putting aside Potabilis technology's low cost of Operation and Maintenance (O&M) and its other features, there is always the issue of who has to pay for that O&M. Is it the government? Is it the user? Who? For the plant to be financially sustainable, it cannot depend on a Government's budget or a Non-profit organization to pay for spare parts, maintenance, labor, etc. So, it must rely on the user to keep operating.

The question then is this, how do you charge someone full price for an essential human right like clean water access when he/she is under a vulnerable situation? Easily, using our Freemium Model.

As you can see here, Potabilis main product is distilled water, which is then remineralized for human consumption. Distilled water can be used in many industrial as well as local-craft applications, such as bio-fertilizers production, cosmetics, pharmaceutical, among others. Best of all, it has a much higher market value than drinkable water. Our aim is for the community to use distilled water selling price to cover the main plant's operating costs and charge preferable rates to drinkable water users. That way can produce social good and still be financially feasible.

That is the Freemium model (Free + Premium), used by major software companies, for which they can offer cheap (or free) products and still produce profits. Similar approaches have been tested in Africa with great results, see them here.

The challenge now is how to train the community to begin using distilled water in local added value crafts? For that, we have developed a social capacity building program, partnering with Tierra Viva Foundation, which covers 3 main aspects:

  • Technical training: How to use Potabilis plant, operation and maintenance procedures, etc.
  • Social network and Community organization: How to manage the plant operation as a community, from the social point of view. Operation and administrative teams, as well as how to use financial resources surplus through a local action fund promoting other local socio-productive capacities, and entrepreneurial activities.
  • Water management and conservation: Awareness campaigns for sustainable use of water resources.

This program will be taught when the plant is installed, promoting close participation of the community in all of the processes. We believe this is the best way to create a lasting community-water supply bond. It is not just about water supply. It is a way for them to grow on well-being under sustainable livelihood models.