Kim Chow / Designmatters at Art Center College of Design
Balde a Balde: Safe Agua
Innovation Center, Un Techo Para Mi Pais
Balde a Balde: Safe Agua
A well-considered product that fulfils a basic need very well. This product shows that even relatively humble designs can make a big difference to people’s lives.
Such an obvious answer to the problem, but so much better than what’s currently out there.
Great detail execution of the simple idea of a portable tap.
Balde a Balde: Safe Agua
Balde a Balde (Spanish for “Bucket to Bucket”) is a portable faucet that delivers a flow of water from any container. It makes the convenience and health benefits of running water available to the 46% of the global population living without it.
HOW IT WORKS:
• A universal clip attaches the portable faucet to any existing container.
• A squeeze of the siphon pump initiates a continuous flow of water.
• Tapping the spout instantly turns on and off the water.
• Twisting the valve regulates the volume of water.
According to a 2010 WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation report, 2 in 10 urban dwellers, and 7 in 10 rural dwellers lack access to piped water connections, with many more receiving an inconsistent water supply. This has the most significant toll on the health, productivity and prosperity of the poorest populations. Lack of running water is associated with a decreased incidence of handwashing, and increased risk of death from diarrhea, especially in children (International Journal of Epidemiology).
In Fall of 2011, we conducted a 10-day research trip to Cerro Verde, a slum of Lima, Peru that lacked running water and basic resources, to better understand the problems faced by this population, and develop affordable, scalable solutions to relieve the burden of water poverty through social innovation and co-creation with the families living there.
With the guidance of our NGO partner, we concluded that to create the greatest sustainable impact, the solution must:
• Address specific problems, both qualitative and quantitative
• Be affordable for people living on $2-10 a day, without the aid of subsidies
• Be scalable to reach at least 1 million people
• Either save money, or help generate income
We created a personal brief of maximizing cleanliness while optimizing water use, based on the following insights from our field research in Lima, Peru:
• Handwashing can prevent twice as many water-borne deaths as clean drinking water alone. But without running water, children skip washing their hands, or people expose themselves and source water to contamination — by “washing” hands in grey water, or by holding a tub in their mouth and pouring water over their hands.
• Women spend the majority their day keeping clean – laundering clothing, washing dishes, cleaning produce. They transfer water from bucket to bucket, often spilling or contaminating it.
• Families spend a significant part of their income on healthcare costs and on purchasing non-potable water from delivery trucks.
In addition to addressing problems witnessed during research, our solution should also:
• Consider health concerns of children
• Provide the user with a sense of dignity and control
• Relate to cultural aesthetics
Development of Balde a Balde began with a 10-day intensive research trip to Cerro Verde, a 30,000-person slum in Lima, Peru. Two core families hosted each research team, with a total of 20 interviews conducted collectively. During the visits, we helped with daily chores, discussed people’s aspirations, and bonded with our families. We also conducted a variety of ethnographic research methods, to collect both quantitative and qualitative information, including flow analysis, timelines, and guided tours.
DEFINING THE BRIEF:
To ensure that the solution not only solved a problem, but was also a product that the families would be eager and able to purchase, we ensured that our opportunities connected with both an observed behavioral pattern and consumption pattern. When selecting the brief, we consulted via phone and video with our NGO partners on the ground, and with the families themselves.
In December 2011, we tested initial prototypes of Balde a Balde with three families for three days. The flexibility of Balde a Balde allowed families to show us exactly what they valued, often using the faucet in unexpected ways. Based on video-feedback we redesigned the product to enhance the health, convenience and water-savings benefits they found in the device. In late March 2012, we sent the improved prototypes to Santiago, Chile and are currently in the process of pilot testing with families living in Chile’s slums.
Based on the families’ responses from field testing and our market analysis, we discovered that existing valves were either too difficult to use with soapy hands, did not have a high enough water flow, or required constant pressure to function. In response, we created a specialized valve that is not only easy to operate with one hand, but also has an adjustable flow to accommodate patterns of use – from washing hands to dishes and clothes, to transferring large quantities of water.
Existing bucket attachments could only be used with limited bucket types, wore out easily over time, causes the tube to kink, or held the tube high off the rim of the bucket, making a gravity-fed system less effective. After multiple iterations we designed a clip that could attach easily to most containers and hold the faucet firmly in place.
AFFORDABLE MANUFACTURE & IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGY:
Balde a Balde is designed for radical affordability, and can be manufactured overseas for under $3 per unit. In six months, we plan to pilot 100+ Balde a Baldes to test the design and commercialization strategy. We will launch the product starting in South America with our current NGO partner and grow globally using our university’s connections with an NGO in India. During this time, we will develop potential secondary product attachments, such as a showerhead, and are currently developing an overnight filter attachment.
Unlike other handwashing interventions, this product addresses not just clean hands, but optimizes the full range of water-related tasks performed in the home. By working with families’ existing containers and patterns of use, this product provides running water wherever it is needed.
BENEFIT TO USER
• Promotes health by supplying the hygienic benefits of running water
• Makes hand washing more accessible to children
• Allows for exact control of where and how much water is used, to save water consumption
• Provides the experience and dignity of using a tap
• Increases productivity by minimizing the time and attention required for tasks
• Convenient, easy, one-handed operation
VALUE TO SOCIAL ENTREPRENEUR
• Innovative, unique product
• Access to emerging markets
• Opportunity for corporate social responsibility
• Potential to extend the product line, through add-ons including overnight filtering, heating and shower attachments.
BENEFIT TO SOCIETY
• Supports health and sanitation education, to reduce incidence of water-borne illness
• Brings attention to market opportunities at the base of the pyramid — 4 billion people living on under $9 a day
Balde a Balde was developed with a focus on co-creation, directly with families living on $4-10 a day.
• Concept developed from patterns of behavior and consumption observed during field research.
• Regular phone and video feedback during development dictated direction of design.
• Value of solution validated by community’s field testing of functional prototypes in Lima, Peru.
• Continued testing of prototypes by communities in Santiago, Chile
• Ongoing evaluation and project direction from our NGO partner, who has an internationally renowned track record working with poor communities in 19 countries across Latin America.
We are currently working with MBA students and entrepreneurship organizations to develop and iterate business strategies for long-term sustainability. To ensure market sustainability, we plan to sell this product directly to the consumer at an affordable price, without the aid of external subsidies. We will start sales to local commercial venues, such as markets and community centers, to gain visibility. We plan to develop locally in communities where we have direct experience, in Lima, Peru and Santiago, Chile. Working with our NGO partner’s extensive network of 400,000 volunteers in 19 countries across South America, we plan to expand across the continent, and then globally to reach India. We are also pursuing the opportunity to cross-subsidize sales of Balde a Balde in the recreational camping market, to subsidize health education programs and offset the cost of the product in the developing market.