Wateroam is a Singapore-based organization on a mission to provide access to clean water by deploying water filter solutions to the most remote communities all over the world.
We sat down with Chong Tee, Co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Wateroam, to learn more about why they chose to leave this particular impact in the world.
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In a time when many everyone focus their climate action efforts on carbon offset and planting trees, the water crisis seems to be pushed in the background. How do you explain this and why did you choose to make water poverty a priority?
Chong Tee: I think these two problems are intrinsically linked to each other. The forests are like the world’s most natural purifier as a carbon sink and helps hold the soil together. All these makes sure that our water is clean and that everybody has access to it. When there’s a lot of deforestation and illegal logging, the water quality is oftentimes directly impacted as well.
For us, the reason why we wanted to focus on water is because we know that water has direct impact on the people and the community around us. The impact of climate change when people cut down trees aren’t immediately apparent.
We can see the effects of climate change and it’s getting worse over the years but people can’t live a day without clean water. There are many marginalized communities that doesn’t have access to clean drinking water, which is why we believe that it’s important to know to be able to tackle the problem that impacts human health directly. That’s why we feel that the journey to end human thirst is a big priority for us.
What is something that you think will be a gamechanger in addressing the water crisis?
Chong Tee: The water crisis is definitely something that is complicated. I wouldn’t say that there’s only one or two things that would solve it. It takes a multi-pronged approach but we believe that technology and innovation will drastically change the way that we deal with water. Traditionally, water treatment is very centralized.
Just where we live in Singapore, it’s so easy to get access to clean drinking water because you know the government has a huge water plan that is able to process dirty water and how much of clean drinking water they can provide. But in many places in the world, that process is just too difficult. It needs to go through a lot bureaucratic loops because it’s costly. All these could prevent people from getting access to water.
Why I think technology is a disruptor in this field is because we believe that the use of decentralized water solution will be able to help distribute water to more of these areas that can’t have easy access to it. A water pump can cost hundreds or millions to set up but we have these decentralized solutions that’s less than a thousand dollars. They can immediately provide to a community of beyond a hundred people, or more, with clean drinking water.
It’s not just the private sector doing everything. You need the private sector, the governments, the civic. The people from the ground have to be involved to be able to implement change in this area. This is why we believe that our current model, which is a social enterprise that focuses on providing solutions that can help to better the lives of these people, will be a way forward.
What are Wateroam’s main challenges right now? Any blockers that you’d like to address in the nearest future?
Chong Tee: I think, for us, the challenge is distribution. Like how do we actually reach out to all these people during the pandemic. Travel is slowly resuming, and we’re starting to see some life in that area but it is still a lot slower, it is more expensive, and it is a lot less accessible than it used to be.
Leveraging the partners and working with various parties is a way for us to move forward. It’s a way for us to be able to do the job on the ground. Video call is a lot more common and it makes it easier for us to do virtual training for those on the ground.
You recently partnered with Handprint in 2021 to accelerate your positive impact on the communities you help. What are your ideal outcomes and how do you see the future this collaboration?
Chong Tee: What Handprint provides is a platform for merchants to connect with impact organizations like ours, so we do see a lot of synergy on how we can move forward. We’d love to connect with more companies that has a fast-growing product who are also keen on connecting with organizations that want to create impact so it can be a win-win for everybody.
What are your main 2022 projects or initiatives, and how can people and businesses support you?
Chong Tee: So last year we had a very successful Myanmar marketing campaign.
We were fundraising for the refugees that were affected by the coup and a lot of these people were picked up from their homes. They had to live in a mountainous area for shelter. Moving forward we hope that they’ll be more corporates that will be interested in partnering with us to be able to support what we’re doing. The last part of what we’re doing is a lot like CSR. We want to be able to look for more stakeholders from the private sector or from the corporate side.
To be able to be involved in what we’re doing, every cent really counts to make sure that people actually get access to clean water. You will see that the work on the ground is incredible and amazing. Now, we would just like to work with more people like that who believe in our cause.
What are you most proud of today with Wateroam?
Chong Tee: We’re very thankful for the support that we get. People from all walks of life are supporting us. The public, the private sector and the government as well all recognize what we’re doing. We hope that we can continue doing what we love and giving back to the world.
We’re also able to impact around 200,000 people so far. If you look at the figures last year as well, we were around 130,000. That means a lot to us and we hope we’ll be able to do more in the future.
Wateroam also recently received the Zayed Sustainability Prize, which is the award that’s being given to social impact organizations. We’d like to see where we go from here with that recognition.