BlueTech Research Roundtable 3: SDG6 – Clean Water & Sanitation – how innovation can lift us out of water poverty

Location: Online

We had a fantastic turn out at our latest roundtable which was held on the 11th May on the topic of SDG 6 – how innovation can lift us out of water poverty.

We are on our third attempt since the 1980s to provide universal access to water.

SDG 6 – achieve clean water & sanitation for all by 2030, was not on track even before the pandemic. According to the UN, the rate of progress needs to quadruple to get there by 2030.

The UN’s sustainable development goals use outdated assumptions of water availability; water scarcity is not adequately taken into account. In any case, rolling out the established Victorian system of piped water to every home, to an extra 2 billion people will end up replicating all of its current problems.

A paradigm shift is needed which focuses on innovations in technology, but also within business models: how can we realise the market opportunity of meeting SDG6?

The roundtable looked at questions such as:

• What is the role of the private sector?
• How do we make water affordable for people?
• Are bottled water kiosks the “cell phone” of water infrastructure?
• Rural vs. urban – which problem do you solve first?
• What innovative practices and technologies for water and sanitation exist? How do they scale up?
• How can organizations partner globally to ensure that achieving SDG6 is a reality and not just a pipe dream?

According to our “lightning” speaker for this session David Lloyd Owen, author of the excellent Global Water Funding: “We often hear people tell us that 78 million people don’t have access to improved water. That is an entirely meaningless number. The real number is in excess of 2 billion who don’t have access to safe water and in excess of 4 billion don’t have access to safe sanitation.”

Corporations have a key role to play in the SDG 6 story. Organisations such as Apple, Amazon, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, Carlsberg, Ab InBev, Kimberly Clark, Coca-Cola, L’Oreal and many more are setting moon-shot goals between now and 2030 – that provides exceptional hope and optimism.

Before 2030, we can say: “Now we know what we need to do.”

Some comments from our delegates:

  • “Some goals are unrealistic”
  • “It is ultimately achievable”
  • “Uncomfortable with the word “safe” water. We need to go beyond that”
  • “Collaboration is key”
  • “The water crisis drives innovation & creativity”
  • “Affordability is important – need to balance innovations for the many”
  • “I am sceptical about the SDG framework – we need to talk about a regenerative framework”
  • “If we keep doing the same things, not a lot will change”
  • “How can we enable communities to take advantage of decentralized options?”
  • “The private sector understands customers better than the public sector”

  • “How can we make sanitation sexy?”
  • “How can we enable communities to take advantage of decentralized options?”
  • “Safe water is a paradigm shift”