Elemental Water Makers

Elemental Water Makers
Minor International Entrepreneurship & Development 2017


Daan Dutilh
Reinout Sterk
Wietse Schaefer

Fresh water is a scarcity on earth although 70% of the planet is covered with water. Making drinkable water out of seawater is a very energy intense process, Elemental Water Makers (EWM) has come up with a solution to make it sustainable. We Daan Dutilh, Reinout Sterk and Wietse Schaefer are working closely together with EWM during our minor International Entrepreneurship and Development.

Elemental Water Makers is a Dutch start up set up by two former students of Delft University of Technology. Their solution to solve fresh water scarcity is by using desalination combined with only sustainable resources. The desalination plants to date are mostly powered by fossil fuels or energy from the grid. The desalination process is based on reverse osmosis which uses a significant amount of energy. The founders of EWM have invented a technology that is able to reduce the energy consumption. This combined with the use of renewable energy creates an opportunity to convert a large amount of salt water into fresh water without worsening global warming issue.

Many communities over the world use unreliable water supplies. Our goal is to, together with EWM, locate such communities and explore the possibilities of enrolling the modern EWM water system.

A location is potentially suitable for this project when there is limited access to fresh water sources, such as ground water and surface water. We started doing desk research in order to find a suitable location. After making multi-criteria-analyses Belize came out favourable. Belize has a fresh water shortage and many communities are currently looking at desalination possibilities. Our final objective could be formulated as follows:

“Providing drinkable water to a rural community in coastal regions in Belize, where there is a scarcity of drinking water, by the introduction of a desalination plant driven by green energy for a sustainable operation”.

However, there are many steps to take in order to reach our final objective. Our first sub-objective is to get in contact with local citizens and find out what their water supply chain looks like. The complexity of the supply chain is very important. When the complexity levels are high the chances of the EWM technology to be deployed on site will increase.  From this point, we will continue our research on site and look for local workers and opportunities. Depending on the interest we will continue our search or stay at the current location to search for the possibilities EWM can provide.

In the end, we want to collect information from the different water scarcity problems Belize is currently facing and provide detailed on-site information to EWM. So, they can decide if their technology is an improvement to the region.

The Problem
The current reliability of the water supply in the coastal of Belize is season bound, due to the dry and wet seasons. During the dry season, there is not enough water while in the wet season the rivers are flooded what results in a poor water quality. Besides, the poor water quality is strengthened by bad water storage facilities instead of poor water purification. Except from the poor reliability and quality, the water supplied by Belize’s only piped water company, Belize Water Services (BWS), is relatively expensive, especially on the islands. There are also remote communities and resorts which depend on water delivered by trucks or their own wells which need to be deeper every year. This water is even more expensive and the reliability decreases, there is a chance that people have no access to fresh water.

Mission statement
“To introduce and create awareness of the advantages and the principles of a sustainable desalination plant, driven by renewable energy at the coastal regions of Belize, where there is a scarcity of drinking water. By educating and conversing with resorts and rural communities aware-ness is created and if possible start an overseas project in collaboration with Elemental Water Makers.”

Our mission is to explore the different difficulties concerning water supply in the coastal regions of Belize. In this way, Elemental Water Makers can further look into detail on how they can help solve the fresh water scarcity using their new sustainable desalination system

When the project is finished after three months we will hand over a report together with a port-folio that clearly describes all the different conversations and correspondence we’ve had with the hotel and resort managers. It will also include broad recommendations of people/projects that are really interested in the solution EWM can provide.

Daan Dutilh, Reinout Sterk and Wietse Schaefer

After our three months stay in Belize, we returned to Delft. We learned a lot during our travels and we discovered many interesting results. We had interesting conversations in Belize, from water consumers to the President of Belize.

The problem
The Belize Water Services Ltd. (BWS) is the only utility company which is allowed to distribute water throughout the country. The quality is regularly checked by their own lab as well as by the ministry of health. The quality differs per region, on the mainland the water meets the standards of the world Health Organization. On the islands there are several problems the BWS is facing, the water has a smell and is sometimes still too salty. On the two main islands of Belize the water is produced by big desalination plants powered by diesel generators. Since the diesel is very expensive, the water on the islands is expensive for the consumers.

Market research
We focused on different costumer segments: resorts, private islands, communities and project developers. The plan of approach was interviewing the actors. We did this by visiting them on site or in some cases by phone. We discovered that the communities are too small to finance their own desalination plant and in most cases, they already had a fresh water resource. Because of that we concluded that the other costumer segments were more interesting regarding our project. During an in-depth research at several resorts we found out that investing in the system could safe them up to 80% of their current water expenses. We also came across a resort that consumes all the available village water leaving the villagers without water sometimes for up to a week. In general, the people in Belize collect the rainwater in big tanks, this is used for bathing only, because the water tanks aren’t cleaned regularly, and the water isn’t filtered afterword’s.

To spread the word about sustainable desalination we not only spoke with the costumers but also spoke with influential people. After speaking with the mayor of the most touristic area in Belize, we found out that most of the decisions related to the water provision are made by the central government. Since our project is only three months, we could better focus on smaller projects instead of changing the current provision of the BWS. Besides we spread the word of sustainable desalination on the radio and in the newspaper. This resulted in several interested parties and new leads for Elemental Water Makers (EWM). We also gave a workshop to the science department of a high school.

After all the conversations we had with over 125 actors we discovered many new leads for EWM. After our visit several official proposals were send out by EWM and they are still in the process of implementing their system. Overall, we don’t think the mainland is interesting for the desalination systems, but on the different islands there is a lot of potential for EWM. After three months we visited all the different areas of Belize however there are more regions in other countries that are interesting for EWM or future minor projects.

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