Water, Democratized

by Cody Friesen,
Smiling Boy

We’re dedicating our lives to making this title reality

I published two previous posts laying out what we are up to at Zero Mass Water, and a potential framework for how we enable our online customers to partner with us in democratizing water: making everyone, everywhere able to own their own water.

In that second piece I asked for feedback. And, boy, did we get it! Hundreds of comments and suggestions flooded in, ranging from congratulations to incredulity, from curiosity to skepticism, and from interested SOURCE purchasers to prospective partners. Quick reminder: we developed and make SOURCE, a drinking water solar panel. Yup, exactly as it sounds, we make a solar panel that makes perfect drinking water from sunlight and air alone. No electricity or piped input connections required. We’ve been installing SOURCE across several continents since 2015, very quietly developing and massaging the product to fit customers’ needs from multimillion dollar villas in the Middle East to modest family homes in Ecuador. We enable people of all stripes and all means to own their drinking water for the first time. Now, I want to take a moment and make a side note on “ownership” and “democratization.” I know these phrases can be a bit confusing when we talk about water, and we got some feedback along these lines. Some said: “no one can ‘own’ water, it should be freely available to everyone,” and “how are you ‘democratizing’ water when it’s a human right?”

My answer is YES. Exactly. Not only do I 100% agree with both of these statements, I actually founded Zero Mass Water specifically to solve for the status quo, which is that water is not freely available and many people are not receiving their water-related human rights. SOURCE solves these parallel challenges because it takes freely available resources, air and sunlight, and makes drinking water without any other inputs. It’s purely infrastructure-free water: a true leapfrog. Empowering anyone in the world to “own” a source of high quality water “democratizing” the resource. And bringing it to the world has been an extremely humbling and beautiful process.   The Model: Water Democratized

Yup, exactly as it sounds, we make a solar panel that makes perfect drinking water from sunlight and air alone. No electricity or piped input connections required. We’ve been installing SOURCE across several continents since 2015, very quietly developing and massaging the product to fit customers’ needs from multimillion dollar villas in the Middle East to modest family homes in Ecuador.

In addition to our call for feedback we’ve also been doing a bunch of targeted Facebook ads and A/B testing around our word choices and the model. We have a sort of ridiculous click through rate on those ads, validating that we’re onto something. We’ve also been installing panels at some of the homes that were part of those tests. The combination of that work and your feedback led us to the following: an online customer (beginning in select US cities where we have Certified Installers) will purchase a SOURCE panel and help democratize water for people with fewer resources as part of that purchase. The most resounding feedback we received was that customers want more control and freedom to choose how much they contribute to helping others own their water. We had comments ranging from “How many can I buy for people in Ecuador/Kenya/Syrian refugees?” to “If I buy 10 for others, can I get one free?” to “I need a better source of drinking water at my home in California, but cannot afford to also purchase half of one for someone else.” In the end, we realized all of these and more were good with us, as they all help us deliver on our mission to democratize water for everyone, everywhere. So we came up with a model that is super flexible. When you visit our new website in April, you’ll be able to easily pick your purchase preferences from a set of dropdown menus. In addition to determining the recommended number of SOURCE panels for your home, you’ll also select how much democratizing you’d like to do, in 10%-of-a-panel increments. From there you’ll work with a SOURCE Certified Installer to have your panels installed, and you’ll get an update on panels you’ve made a reality for someone else. The recipient of the subsidized panel will not receive them for free. Rather, they will pay the cost of getting it to their home and installing it. This just makes sure everyone has skin in the game.   I’m writing this follow-up post to share the updated model that we will go live with. To make sure those gifts that you make go directly to people in need, we are working in partnership with several development groups around the world. To help Syrian Refugees and displaced peoples in the Middle East own their water, we are working with the Rene Moawad Foundation and the Makhzoumi Foundation. To democratize water for underserved people in Ecuador, Peru and Chile, we are starting to work with Hogar de Cristo, a group that has existed since the early 1970s and builds thousands of modest new homes per year. These are well-funded, highly respected groups doing amazing work who know and understand their communities, something we value greatly. Unlike any other technology, SOURCE brings to life the vision for democratized water, for water as a human right. Starting in April, you can join the movement. SOURCE Solar panels installed on the roof