Generous support from the Rockefeller, Osprey, Stone Family and Vitol Foundations enabled the feasibility and initial set up phase of Water Unite. Co-op, the UK’s largest community retailer, has signed a Partnership Compact as a pioneer partner - every branded bottle sold by Co-op contributes a penny per litre to Water Unite. We are in active dialogue with dozens of other major bottled water retailers.

While still early days, our journey has begun. A new board, chaired by Lord Malcolm Bruce, has been appointed. Based on an approach to financing that is catalytic and has the potential to leverage additional financing, early grants have been identified for three initial programs:

Sanitation for Millions (S4M): a global, multi-donor program with the objective to improve access to safely managed sanitation and hygiene, especially in countries hosting a high numbers of refugees. Implemented by the GIZ and currently funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary and ourselves. Initial interventions are implemented in schools, public and religious institutions and health care facilities in Pakistan, Jordan and Uganda, with special attention given to the needs of women and girls and other vulnerable groups. At least 200,000 people are expected to have an improved access to sanitation and hygiene services in this phase. This multi-donor partnership is designed specifically to enable other funders to join and expand impact to other countries in Asia and Africa.

Mobilizing blended finance for water security in Cape Town: Between 2015 and 2018, severe drought threatened the water security of Cape Town’s 4 million people and exacerbated the divide between rich and poor. The day that the taps run dry, dubbed “Day Zero” was narrowly avoided, but the threat remains. One cost effective way to reduce the water crisis is to restore the ecological health of Cape Town’s supply watersheds - a restoration project would generate 50 billion liters of water gains per year corresponding to a sixth of Cape Town’s supply needs. Water Unite will support its partner The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to define a blended financing strategy to raise the
necessary investments for this initiative – the Greater Cape Town Water Fund - beyond philanthropic grants. In particular, the strategy will explore potential long-term municipal funding (from issuing bonds to raising water services fees) and identify investable opportunities for development and commercial banks.

Strengthening the plastic value chain in Mozambique: 98% of waste in Mozambique remains untreated. The collection infrastructure is weak which undermines the viability of the recycling industry. New Extended Producer Responsibility regulation on packaging materials, adopted in 2017, introduced an environmental tax on packaging material to be used to support recycling activities. Producers that can demonstrate that they are collecting and recycling packaging materials may benefit from a tax rebate – providing a growing incentive to move to more efficient collection systems. Water Unite is partnering with a Mozambique based recycling company, 3R (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) in the port city of Beira to test differences in performance and efficiencies of different forms of distributed waste collection systems. In view of the recent devastation of Beira by Cyclone Idai, we will liaise with 3R and its partners to see what can be done to further support the massive clean-up required as the water recedes, to address the risk of diseases, vermin and mosquitos that result from the accumulating waste.

Beyond this, Water Unite is a signatory to the Global Commitment of the Ellen Mac Arthur Foundation for the New Plastic Economy, an initiative which has rallied businesses and governments behind a positive vision of a circular economy for plastics.

These are exciting times and we invite our friends and collaborators to continue with us on this