Precious Drops

While people in many developing countries have plenty of water, much of it isn’t safe enough to drink. What will it take to make their water supplies clean so we can stop spending scarce resources on mountains of plastic water bottles?


The Water Innovators | Craftsmanship Quarterly, Winter 2017

Potters for Peace, an aid organization based in Arizona, developed these ceramic filters so people in developing countries could get clean water. The systems are low-tech, and affordable. A single household can filter 20 liters of water a day at a cost of $0.034-0.14. Photo courtesy of WaterAid

Like many of his middle-class neighbors in Mumbai, Bhakti Klein gets his water delivered to his home each week in a plastic bottle by the local grocery store. For 20 liters (just over 5 gallons), he pays 90 rupee, or $1.35—nearly a third of the average Indian’s daily income of $4.41. “We don’t have a 24-hour water supply in my neighborhood yet, let alone potable water,” says Klein, who is originally from the United States. “The entire water supply system would have to be improved before I would drink tap water.”

By 2013, China had overtaken the U.S. as the world’s biggest market for bottled water. And in 2015, the Chinese spent more than $26.5 billion on this basic earthly resource.

India is now the world’s third largest market for bottled water. According to Canadean, a global business research firm based in the United Kingdom, the amount India spent each year on bottled water nearly tripled from 2010 to 2015, growing from $6.275 billion to $16.7 billion. That represents 6 percent of the world’s current bottled water consumption, a figure that Canadean expects to grow to 10 percent by 2020.

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