When you design something for everyone, it’s not useful for anyone. The current trend is to build gadgets when more adaptive options are what’s needed. At Water4, we assess the individual need and then design a fit-for-purpose mechanism to address the challenge. Taking into account water quality, geography, community size, cost, and affordability constraints, our teams determine the right solution to address a specific challenge at hand.

When stepping into a local water crisis, we first ask the question, “How do we combine our tools, or make new ones, to achieve the biggest impact?” The answer varies. Sometimes, we drill new wells with machines instead of augers; sometimes, we repair existing broken boreholes; sometimes, we spiderweb distribution systems across a town; and other times, we build a central water kiosk. This tailored approach allows us to make opportunities out of liabilities. Can we pull out a non-functioning handpump that serves 300 people and install a solar-powered system to serve thousands? Can we find the best solution with the biggest impact? Done.

We do things this way because we’re not married to a specific type of technology; we’re married to sustainability. That’s why, during the past 11 years, we transitioned from only augers and PVC pumps to the package of safe water solutions you see today. NUMA water is our latest iteration of a branded safe water product that can reach every home, school, and clinic in the places our partners serve. By offering NUMA water at different levels of scale, we can reach diverse market segments, ensuring safe water is available for all.

The world says “bigger is better” and that if we spend more money, it must be good. The incentive for politicians and engineering firms alike is: build, build, build. That way of thinking has left several large cities in Europe and the U.S. with infrastructure they cannot afford to maintain. We don’t want to create new liabilities for the poor. We simply want systems that can be operated at a very low cost in perpetuity, and that can be easily fixed when they break. Our hope is that in 30 years, Africa will not find itself in the same position as the residents of Flint, Michigan are in today. This is why we will continue to push for modular approaches that have low operational costs, because we know it’s what’s best for the next generation.

What is essential for Water4 is that the solution be optimized to the local context to ensure long-term sustainable service delivery. We believe that by thinking critically about the challenges and opportunities, we are cutting costs, empowering local businesses, and strengthening our impact. For Water4, fit-for-purpose means fit-for-generations.