Diving Into the Future

IMTFI — Journeys for Water

To discover unmet needs and opportunities for innovation in India and beyond, frog and IMTFI worked to better understand the ad-hoc infrastructure supporting clean drinking water in financially constrained communities, and uncover ways to address critical gaps in basic municipal services.

Over the past few decades, India has seen a massive economic migration from villages to cities—and more people are on their way. According to the The World Bank, the number of people living in India's cities will rise nearly sixty percent in the next twenty years, from 380 million to a staggering 600 million. With this rapid growth comes immense challenges to infrastructure, including increased demand on India's already strained urban water supply.

To better prepare for India's urban water crisis, in 2012 the Institute for Money, Technology and Financial Inclusion (IMTFI) partnered with frog to research how financially constrained consumers acquire, store and use drinking water. From Ahmedabad to Delhi, the frog team discovered an erratic and overburdened distribution system. Government tankers, similar to petroleum carriers, carry an official supply of water to cities, but service is inconsistent and limited. To compensate, some urban dwellers drill their own borewells, but groundwater quality is often poor. A number of private, fee-based models have been piloted, but none have taken hold in urban areas.

Journeys for Water: Survival Strategies in Urban India, identifies the social, economic and political dynamics in the urban slum ecosystem and the role they play in clean water access. By taking a close look at day-to-day water use, the report explores strategies that emerging private distribution systems, "water ATMs," might use to fit into the urban water ecosystem. The research continues to inform strategy and next steps for two organizations in particular: Sarvajal, a water distribution company looking to bring their rural solution into urban areas, and the Delhi Jai Board, the organization overseeing Delhi's water supply.

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