09 Sep InnoDi Water Technologies Private Limited – Taking Clean Water to Communities
The Innovation Hub for Urban Water, Sanitation and Hygiene or IHUWASH is a collaborative initiative between the National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) and Ennovent. The three-year project is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and aims to improve the performance of urban WASH programs using a collaborative framework, incorporating both private and public participation. InnoDI is one of the organisations shortlisted as part of the IHUWASH project.
A lot has been written about the water crisis in India. This manifold crisis is partly owing to the scarcity of water, and partly due to the lack of accessible clean water. According to a report published by Water Aid in 2018, India is one of ten countries with the lowest access to clean water close to home.
In the quest to contribute to resolving this issue, InnoDI Water Technologies Pvt Ltd was born. Vijay Sampath, Founding Director & CEO of InnoDI says, “Our goal when we started was to create an effective impact in rural areas, and this continues to be the vision.”
InnoDI which stands for Innovative De-ionization is a joint venture between Idropan Dell’Orto Depuratori based in Milano, Italy, AquaSphere Greentech Solutions based out of Bangalore, India and led by IIT Madras through Prof. Pradeep lab. They have developed a new generation of water treatment systems, called Capacitive Deionization (CDI) that treats ground and surface water to produce clean drinkable water meeting WHO standards.
While the Reverse Osmosis (RO) method of purifying water has been around for decades, it is also known for the amount of water wastage while purifying. This particular downside of RO is effectively addressed using CDI which cuts down the water wastage to just 20%, in comparison to the 70% wastage in RO systems. Additionally, the systems also use lesser power, can operate using solar power, do not use any chemicals, and have a significantly low operating cost (of less than 10 paise per litre). “Right now, we have completely industrialised the CDI technology, and are in a position to scale up significantly”, says Vijay.
They have over 300 community units in several locations such as hospitals, schools, and community drinking points. The Digital Water Kiosk is a compact community drinking water solution that can serve 200-400 families. The Smart Dispenser is a smaller unit meant for schools, hostels, hospitals that can dispense water for floating populations to reduce plastic usage.
In August 2018, HMWSSB installed the CDI-based water treatment system as a Point of Entry based solution. This device placed on top of the terrace treats and stores 3,000 liters of drinking water daily and is then discharged to every floor in the building through a dispenser attached to the main tank. By doing so the department has been able to save close to Rs. 4 lakh per annum on drinking water needs for staff and visitors, as well as eliminating the use of plastic bottles within the premises.
InnoDI works closely with social sector organisations to ensure behaviour change concerning consuming purified water. “We focus on our competence which is the technology, and these organisations help us with the delivery”, says Vijay. Currently, the company has additional focus and is keen on making this technology available in the form of home units. “We wish to make the technology pervasive, and want to put it in every home”, he adds.
However, the path has a few challenges. One of the key challenges, Vijay says is the rate of adoption of new technology. He says, “Owing to the popularity of RO, people want to wait longer to adopt CDI. We are hoping the introduction of home units will help improve this perception.” He also adds that the marginally higher cost of the technology is also proving to be a challenge. To address this the company is working towards ensuring more original equipment manufacturers would adopt this technology, thereby reducing the cost.
They are also working with technicians to train them in installing and repairing the units efficiently. Having set up an IoT platform makes remote services easier. They can log in to the equipment and advice local technicians on resolving the problem. The data also helps them in addressing more than just technical issues. Vijay says, “If we see that the amount of water consumed every day is significantly low, we understand that adoption is an issue. We then convey this to the civil society organisation we work with, to help them address it.”
Eventually, they want to use the data collected to measure the health impact in the local communities. With clean potable water as the primary goal, Vijay also adds that in some cases, they have suggested that the water does not need a purification system. He says, “If you are getting good municipal water, all you need is a good disinfection treatment and a carbon filter. You don’t need any other technology. Before fixing a solution at the community level, we ask for a water test report, and suggest a solution based on that.”
So, what does the future hold for InnoDI? “We are looking at industrial solutions and trying to use CDI for producing water for ultra-pure purposes – for example during dialysis. We are also trying to make attachments for washing machines and dishwashers. From the technical point of view, we are aggressively working towards the next generation of CDI which will be more cost-effective, and also be able to purify water with very high levels of impurities”, Vijay says.
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