Making Communities Water Secure

A water-from-air kiosk launched by USAID and Maithri Aquatech makes clean water a shared resource.

By Natasa Milas

February 2023

Making Communities Water Secure

Maithri Aquatech’s water-from-air kiosk at a railway station in Andhra Pradesh. (Photograph courtesy Maithri Aquatech)

Access to safe drinking water is vital for public health as it can lower the risk of infectious diseases. It can also improve productivity and enhance a community’s economic growth as people won’t have to spend hours collecting water. However, this basic necessity is still a challenge for many due to extreme water stress, contaminated surface water and lack of access to piped water supply.  The U.S. Agency for International Development  (USAID), works with partners across India to create healthier urban communities and improve livelihoods by increasing access to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services.

USAID partnered with Hyderabad-based Maithri Aquatech for the launch of a water-from-air kiosk in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. It is a unique device that harvests moisture from air, condenses it and processes the moisture into clean, potable water. The device is not dependent on scarce groundwater or surface water resources.

Simple operation, big impact

The atmospheric water generator, named MEGHDOOT, mimics the natural rain cycle by harvesting the atmosphere’s moisture to generate water, explains Naveen Mathur, chief executive officer of Maithri Aquatech. “The water, once generated, goes through a rigorous multistage process of filtration to ensure that it is 100 percent pure,” he says. After filtration, the water generator  adds minerals back to the water and then dispenses it.

Mathur says population increase and rapid urban development have created a demand and supply gap, making clean water highly valuable. At the same time, unchecked contamination of water at existing resources “makes it absolutely necessary to explore and look beyond traditional sources of water,” he says.

The water generator at Visakhapatnam was installed under project SEWAH (Sustainable Enterprises for Water and Health). It is an initiative by Safe Water Network and USAID, in a public-private partnership with the municipality of Visakhapatnam and Maithri Aquatech. SEWAH aims to support the city administration in increasing access to safe drinking water for lower income urban communities under the Jal Jeevan Mission (Urban) of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. “The SEWAH strategy goes beyond traditional linear thinking that focuses on the installation, operations and maintenance of water enterprises,” explains R.K. Srinivasan, water and sanitation project management specialist with USAID/India. “The SEWAH strategy emphasizes on adopting the ‘system change’ approach, to catalyze the sector through collective action.”

Greater access

Srinivasan says that along with increasing access to clean water, the water-from-air project also promotes inclusion and equitable access. “Most of the households are not connected to the municipal pipe system, especially the urban poor who depend on water tankers and private water suppliers,” he explains. “Poor communities cannot afford expensive water treatment units, resulting in consumption of contaminated groundwater.”

Maithri Aquatech’s  atmospheric water generator can generate a large volume of pure drinking water per day, and has been installed in public places following an in-depth feasibility study. “We firmly believe that access to clean and safe water is a fundamental human right irrespective of class, creed and social status of the person,” says Mathur. “Our projects are established in the heart of the community so that maximum people can benefit from the project.” The company also employs people from local communities at the kiosks.

As the program develops, there are plans to expand it. “After the pilots,” Srinivasan notes, “they will upscale the model in other Indian cities, especially in coastal cities, considering the high moisture level in the atmosphere.”

Natasa Milas is a freelance writer based in New York City.


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