Watly: The next Big Thing

 Written by Eleonora Rizzo

Water: a global emergency

According to the WHO, in 2015 one out of ten people (663 millions) lacked access to safe water while one out of three people (2.4 billions) lacked access to a toilet.[1] To tell the truth, there are currently more people having a mobile phone than a toilet in the world.[2]
The situation is particularly tragic in Sub-Saharan Africa, where only 16% of people were estimated to have access to safe water through a household connection. From one side people struggle to have access to readily drinking water, but from the other, even when water is accessible, the risk of contamination is very high.

The human right to water has been widely recognized in international law and human rights treaties such as the United Nations General Assembly of the 28 July 2010. Still, we are still facing situations in which the poorest regions are unable to access public water supply or better sanitation. The implications vary from the spread of diseases such as cholera and diarrhoea, to children dying from malnutrition and dehydration.

The overwhelmingly evidence of such inequalities going on in the world may get oneself to wonder “Why”. Why is this situation still acceptable? Why them and not me?
And it’s precisely this series of questions which inspired and motivated the work of an Italian-Spanish start-up led by Marco Attisani, who claims to have figured out a solution. 

Let me introduce you to Watly, the first solar-powered computer providing clean water, off-grid electricity and Internet connection everywhere in the world. 

Seems like the Future is knocking on the door, right?

How it works

The infrastructure reminds of a space shuttle and is indeed impressive, 40 meters of length for 15 tons of weight. The unique “arch shape” of the four thermal solar panels makes this machine super resistant and very efficient. In fact, Watly’s distillation method is up to 11 times more efficient than traditional distillation processes. This allows the system to purify 5 thousand litres of water a day, without recurring to filters which require a lot of maintenance costs. 

Watly's competitive advantage is given by its long term resistance, as in 15 years a single machine could help cut greenhouse gas emissions up to 2.500 tons, the equivalent of 5,000 barrels of oil, while generating 1 GWh of clean and free energy.
These data stem from a period of implementation and trial of Watly 2.0 in Ghana. The prototype was welcomed with great admiration and expectations by local people and its success was awarded with a 2 million euros funding from European organisations including Horizon 2020 and European Pioneers. 

The crowdfunding campaign

However, the costs involved in the setup of another machine are huge and the company recently launched a crowdfunding campaign on IndieGogo to raise another $75000.
Unfortunately, the team struggled with collecting all the necessary funds and were able to cover only 24% of the required sum thanks to the support of individual investors.

Watly has been developed as a tool to empower economies and economic growth in developing areas. This technology could make a real impact on the standards of living of these people, getting them out of poverty and starvation. Just think about mass emigrations and how this project could tackle the issue. 

Conversely, other projects such as BauBax, the 15 pockets travel jacket, raised over 11 million out of the 20 thousand set at the beginning of the crowdfunding campaign.
Two different, yet amazingly innovative projects, which faced two very different fortunes.
Except that one encompasses an invaluable social impact.

Although the fundraising campaign on Indiegogo has closed, there are many other solutions you can adopt to support the initiative. 
From visiting their website, to liking the Facebook page, or downloading the app Lively, make sure you spread the news and become part of the change!

[1] World Health Organization and UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP). (2015) Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation, 2015 Update and MDG Assessment.
[2] International Telecommunication Union (ITU). (2015). The World in 2015 ICT Facts and Figures.