Aakash Ganga, a Community-Water-Utility Model for Rainwater Harvesting

Adapted U. S. utility industry model to harvest rainwater. Builds local infrastructure to end water scarcity for generations.

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Organization name

Sustainable Innovations Inc.

Year founded


Initiative stage

Established (the solution has passed the previous stages and demonstrated success)

Annual budget in 2017 (USD)

$250k - $500k

Number of beneficiaries impacted so far

5,000 - 10,000

Organization type

Nonprofit, NGO, or citizen sector

Secondary Focus Area

Rural development

Headquarters location: Country

United States of America

Headquarters location: City

12150 Monument drive, Suite# 400, Fairfax, VA 22033

Location(s) of impact

Country: India Region: Piloted in 6 villages: Lasedi, Raila, Harinagar, Indrasar, Kakreu Kalan, BITS Campus; Churu and Jhunjhunu area, Rajasthan.



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Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?

The world’s aquifers are being pumped dry. In India, aquifers are irreversibly losing 60 cubic miles annually. In Rajasthan, women spend hours to fetch water daily; 40,000 villages face water scarcity. Problem: India wants to harvest rainwater. Lacks development model to thrive amid its 1. Entitlement culture (people expecting free water); 2. Trust deficit (communities don't trust public institutions); 3. Societal segregation (upper caste don't partake water from lower caste); Gender inequality (It's women's chore.)

Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?

Solution: Aakash Ganga or AG, a rainwater harvesting system, adapted the US utility industry model to ensure systemic sustainability. Analogous to acquisition of passage or spectrum rights by the utility industry, AG acquires rainwater harvesting rights from homeowners and local governments. Like the public utility commission (PUC), a consumer watchdog, a village elders' committee, 50% women participants, sets policy for equitable access to water. With life-span of 25 years, AG's shared value lasts for a generation. Its most promising aspects are: 1. Co-ownership by the people and communities; 2. Empowering people to conduct daily audit, online daily audit, of the program; 3. Monetizing traditions and social bonds. The daily audit is the ultimate standard of transparency/accountability; builds trust with us and with AG. It took 8 years to perfect AG for cultural, operational, economic, institutional, technological, societal, political, and environmental sustainability

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work

Piloted in six villages, home to 10,000 people. Built 214 structures. Collects 15 million liters of rainwater annually. Costs $0.02 per thousand liter capacity. Social Impact: Delivers 25,000 liters of clean water per family. Weaned people off free-water entitlement culture. Equitable access to water created social harmony. Daily audit restored trust in community-based programs. Freed women to earn livelihood, girls to get an education, and children of water-borne diseases. Financial Impact: Each village contributed $20,000. Local gov't contributed 10,000 Sq. Meter land. A first in India. Digital technologies, satellite imaging and geographical information system eliminated surveys. Saved $5,000 per village. Cut design period from 12 to 2 weeks. Water Resource Management: Remote IT-based monitoring of water quality and quantity. Capacity 1 million reservoirs. Leadership: Builds local capacity. Online knowledge repository enables speedy replication by others.

Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?

Current: 100% funding from U.S. foundations, individual donors, and Indian diaspora. Mitigated risks of co-investment by people; social and political upheavals, and local government resistance. Pursuing two-pronged strategy for scale up. A. Partner with commercial companies to acquire rainwater harvesting rights for every village in India. Build a water utility in every village. B. Form public-private-consumer partnership (PPCP) wherein Gov't to provide 80% capital and 20% by the private sector and beneficiaries. The government's prerequisite is that PPCP should demonstrate sustainability in 50-villages and mitigate the risks. Sustainable Innovations aims to raise $5 million from philanthropic ventures and donors for the 50-village demonstration.

Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?

Water solutions such as Water ATMs, bore wells, and Play Pumps work when ground water is plentiful but hasten aquifer depletion. Big Idea: Aakash Ganga births a new industry – a federation of local water-utilities -- to harvest rainwater in every village. Value proposition: Accepts India as “it-is”. Doesn’t seek behavior change, glacially slow. Monetizes ancient traditions and social bonds. AG is systemically sustainable, culturally, politically, economically, and operationally.

Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.

In 2003, I acquired the intellectual property rights from the Eastern Virginia Bankruptcy Court to start a new venture. I invited a few friends for dinner to raise seed capital. In between the samosa bites, we talked of giving back to solve social problems, like water scarcity, in our homeland, India. Suddenly, a friend thumped the coffee table and asked, “What difference would it make, even if we were to give $100 million to India?” The conversation came to abrupt halt, meaning money may not make a difference. If not money, then what will make difference? That was my "aha!" moment. Months later, I realized that India needs a systemically sustainable development model to replace its "build-neglect-rebuild" model (IRC Water and Sanitation Center, Holland). I started to innovate a development model to end water scarcity in rural India. And Aakash Ganga was born.

Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?

Ashoka page or contact

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