An Abundant supply of filtered opportunity

Abundant Water’s CEO Sunny Forsyth… “We exist to provide people with access to clean water and we want to collaborate and expand, including here in Canberra.” Photo by Danielle Nohra

ABUNDANT Water has done some big things since it was first established about 10 years ago, but its most recent partnership is its biggest says CEO Sunny Forsyth.

“This is the biggest project we have undertaken both in scope and impact,” says Sunny, 37, of Turner.

The NGO and social enterprise has been delivering cheap, clean-water filters to communities in Laos for nearly its whole existence.

But the inspiration was there a lot earlier, from the time Sunny shared a laboratory with Dr Tony Flynn at ANU in 2001.

Tony was a materials scientist and ceramics lecturer who demonstrated how an extremely effective, long-lasting water filter could be made for next to nothing, mainly out of clay and used coffee grounds.

And now in a major breakthrough for Abundant Water, it will be working with major NGO Caritas Luxembourg, some government departments and civil-society organisations, to provide more than 3500 of these water filters to families and children across the Xiangkhouang Province over the next two years.

“It’s [a collaborative partnership] model that we’ve been developing over the life of the organisation,” he says.

“For us it’s significant because it’s going to be a project spread across 100 villages.

“[And] we are excited by the prospect of delivering safe, clean and sustainable water security to thousands more families in Laos.”

Initially, Abundant Water will install 1800 filters. Each village will receive 15 filters distributed to the poorest households.

“We will also be installing a further three additional filters in public spaces like schools, health clinics, and meeting areas,” he says.

“This will ensure all members of the community benefit from safe and sustainable drinking water.”

But, Abundant Water, which was founded in Canberra, doesn’t just simply give away the filters.

“You can give them away but how does that work long term?” Sunny says.

As part of the project, at least 20 sales agents will receive water, sanitation and hygiene and social business training.

“Based on previous projects, we expect that these agents will be empowered to provide filters to their communities long into the future,” he says.

“This will ensure that villages across Xiangkhouang Province will have the capability to sustainably maintain a safe water supply.”

The World Bank estimates that each year in Laos there are three million cases of disease and 6000 premature deaths directly linked to unclean water and poor sanitation.

Sunny says not having clean water might have minor impacts to more major impacts such as negative health impacts.

“It can lead to reduced school attendance, reduced strength at important times of the year [such as when the rice crops need harvesting],” he says.

“It’s a real issue that we can’t relate to here in Canberra. It impacts their ability to lead productive lives.

“There’s other issues like water infrastructure, which is not necessarily something that can be provided by the government.

“Here in Canberra, we take for granted that we get all of these facilities provided for us.”

Which is why it’s so important for Abundant Water to be acknowledged by large NGOs.

“It’s really a vote of confidence but also a chance to impact more lives,” he says.

“We exist to provide people with access to clean water and we want to collaborate and expand, including here in Canberra.”

And just as the passion started in Canberra with Sunny, it continues to gain support locally with service clubs such as some Rotary clubs in the ACT providing ongoing financial support.

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