Dow People Partner to Bring Clean Water to Their Communities

Clean water is essential for citizens to lead healthy and sanitary lives. But water is a source of life many around the globe take for granted.

Water is scarce in much of Kenya. Many Kenyans do not have consistent access to reliable sources of clean water. Only about 60 percent of cities and towns are reported to have access to safe drinking water – and that access drops to as low as 20 percent in the informal settlements, where half of the urban population lives.

In these urban areas, a large population depends on borehole water that often contains high fluoride levels that leach into the water from the underlying rocks, making the water unfit for human consumption. It is estimated that 20 million Kenyans suffer from dental discoloration and skeletal fluorosis as a result.

Dow employee Leonard Kareko couldn’t ignore the unmet basic needs of those around him – the need for clean water. He recognized that communities near him needed filtration technology.

“I work in Dow’s Nairobi office and am offered many great benefits as a result of my position and my location.” said Kareko, Dow Key Accounts Manager, East Africa. “I am able to support my family and focus on issues that are not centered on basic needs for survival, but that does not mean I can ignore my neighbors – those individuals who don’t have access to the most elementary of human essentials – water. I had access to technology, expertise and the funding resources to make a difference. I knew I could help sustain the project on the ground to support my community in need.”

Kareko worked with Dow people to build a collaboration of passionate partners. They leveraged Dow’s technology and expertise, as well as funding from Dow Global Citizenship’s Business Impact Fund, to create immense social impact.

The Collaboration: Little Sisters of St. Francis Kasarani Project in Kenya

The Community: The Little Sisters of St. Francis Center (LSOSF) in Kasarani, Nairobi County, houses a community hospital, primary and secondary schools, vocational center and a shelter for street children. Water provided by the Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company is inadequate and often rationed, leaving the center without water for 3-4 days per week. Water testing from the Center’s existing borehole revealed fluoride levels significantly higher than the WHO standard, making the water unfit for human consumption.

The Partners: Dow partnered with LSOSF and a USAID-funded initiative – Kenya Integrated Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (KIWASH) to install a water purification system containing nanofiltration, reverse osmosis and ultrafiltration membranes. The system provided the Center and surrounding community with de-fluoridated water, safe for human use and consumption. In addition to funding the unit, Dow’s grant ensured that individuals were educated and trained in operating technology, creating employment opportunities and ensuring the project’s sustainability.

The Success: On June 29, 2018, the project was launched with a ceremony attended by U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce and International Trade Gilbert Kaplan, as well as regional leaders from Dow, LSOSF and KIWASH. As a result of this collaboration, safe and clean water is being provided to more than 9,600 households in the area.

Watch this video to learn more about the project.

Expanding Success: Geoseismic Water Company Project in Kenya

The Community: The Kamulu area of the Ruai Ward in Kenya is a fast-growing development on the outskirts of Nairobi. It is unserved by the Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company and, as a result, area residents have water delivered by donkey cart or water tanker, often unaware of the source or quality of the water. The Geoseismic Water Company serves approximately 2,500 people in Kamulu through three community water points and individual connections, but the source of this water is a deep well called Ken’s Borehole, and its water contains excessive levels of fluoride.

The Partners: Dow partnered with KIWASH to install a nanofiltration and ultrafiltration de-fluoridation unit that will make Ken’s Borehole water safe for human consumption. Because the source of power for the unit is the national power grid, which often fails and leaves the area powerless for up to eight days at a time, KIWASH also is installing a solar power unit to ensure the plant can provide clean water without interruption.

The Success: Upon completion, the project will provide access to safe and clean water to Ken’s 2,500 existing customers and access to approximately 2,000 new customers, bringing WHO-quality water to 4,500 people. In addition, staff training will increase the sustainability of the enterprise.

Supported by Dow employees looking to bring clean and safe water to their people, the Nairobi water projects
have made a great impact and serve as a pilot program that other communities can now leverage.

A Model for the Future: Serdo Project in Ethiopia

The Community: Serdo is a village in Ethiopia’s Afar Region and sits in a corridor used for seasonal migration by pastoralists from the surrounding area. Located near a major international transportation hub to the African nations of Djibouti and Eritrea, and close to Afar’s capital of Semera, Serdo is poised for potential growth. Unfortunately, water is so scarce in this region and groundwater is of such poor quality, water must be trucked to Serdo at a cost that is not sustainable to the Afar regional government or to donors. Currently, the Serdo Water Scheme is being developed through the combined efforts of the Afar Regional Water Bureau and a USAID-funded project called the Lowland WASH Project. As part of this project, a deep borehole was drilled, but the water has high levels of fluoride, total dissolved solids and other contaminants that make it unsafe for human consumption.

The Partners: Dow has partnered with Lowland WASH and AECOM to install a reverse osmosis water treatment unit to enable residents of the area to consume the water produced from the borehole. In addition to the Lowland WASH borehole, it is estimated there are 20 to 40 existing boreholes in the area that have been drilled but subsequently capped due to poor water quality. These capped and idle boreholes represent an investment of between $4 million and $12 million.

The Success: The success of this project will not only provide clean water to the approximately 1,500 residents of Serdo and estimated 4,000 pastoralists who pass through during the year, but it will also serve as an effective demonstration of how Dow's technology can be used for the existing capped boreholes to provide additional clean water to the region.

This model is also being carried to other parts of the globe such as Thailand and India, where Dow has recognized its opportunity to support technology and resourcing to bring clean, safe drinking water to our neighbors in need.

“Dow communities stretch across the world, and many have unique needs and challenges,” said Rob Vallentine, president of The Dow Chemical Company Foundation. “As a global materials science company, we have the tools and expertise to help impact major social issues, and as a B2B company, we collaborate and partner with non-profits, governments and customers on solving these challenges,” “These types of collaborations demonstrate the impact Dow can have on our local communities, utilizing the passion and talent of our people combined with Dow innovation and the expertise of our partners.”

These projects are funded by the Business Impact Fund, which holds $1 million of seed money awarded to employee-sponsored projects that demonstrate business innovation and expertise to bring enhanced competitive advantage, while also engaging in social impact.