Christine Go (RefillMyBottle), Stephen Sanjaya (Blue Bag Water Innovation Award 2015, Lund University, and Seshana Aviananda (Water.org Indonesia)

Imagine waking up in the world with no water.  Forget the morning thirst, what would you brush your teeth with? How do you wash your body? And can your body function without a glass of water in a day?

There is nothing more essential to life on Earth than water. It’s at the core of everyday life, food production, healthy ecosystems and sustainable development. And yet according to the World Health Organization, globally 2.1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water.

In Indonesia, water issue is not so much about its availability, as the country is home to around  6% of the world’s freshwater and 21% in the Asia-Pacific region. Nonetheless, according to water.org, around 27 million Indonesians don’t have enough access to safe drinking water, more than 51 million lack access to improved sanitation facilities.

And as the old saying goes, creativity can almost solve any problems.

Hence our second SDG Talks: Leaving No One Behind in the Access of Water dove into this critical issue with a focus on creativity. We highlighted three young Indonesian water innovators - Christine Go (Refill My Bottle), Stephen Sanjaya (Blue Bag Water Innovation Award 2015, Lund University) and Seshana Aviananda (Water.org, Indonesia) – each coming up with their own concrete innovations

One might think the issue of water accessibility can easily be solved with the use of water bottles but as Go says “even if people want to use water bottles in Indonesia they can’t — there’s no immediate access to clean, drinkable tap water, the infrastructure is not there yet”. In addition, the continuous use of single-use plastic water bottle adds to plastic waste which in turns negatively impacts the health of our environment and contributes to water pollution.

Go’s Refill My Bottle initiative tries to tackle water issue by advocating for a change in our consumption., In doing so, the start-up has created an online map that identifies all the places - be it a cafe, resort, museum or shop - where people could walk in and fill up their bottle with clean drinkable water for free or a minimum fee. Their goal is simple, and yet potent: reducing the number of bottled water consumption.

This kind of creativity is exactly what the country needs, according to the water experts.  “The key to our water challenges is our youth and their creativity” said Juliaty Ansye Sopacua, a Senior Special Advisor on SDG for UNDP Indonesia. Innovation which includes uses the different challenges urban and rural communities face, the involvement of different sectors, and community especially young people are critical, added Sopacua who holds a PhD in hydrology engineering.

Sanjaya spoke on creating a holistic system where the involvement of civil society is important to create a fairer evenly distribution of safe drinking water, which he noticed when he was a kid and his family had to buy water from small water vendors.

Aviananda’s Water.org shared about the impact of the innovative tool called water credit, “Water credit has been quite the resourceful tool in providing poor neighborhoods with clean water and sanitation, as it helped over 700.000 people and generated over 38 billion Rupiahs in Indonesia alone.”

There is an opportunity for innovation at all aspects of water issue, whether it be policy, infrastructure, changing consumption behaviour and community development. An example of this would be water refill machines “where you can exchange spare change for water in your own bottle” which GO hopes will be popularized in Indonesia’s future.

So, the next time you have your glass of water, think about how you can contribute in solving the complex challenge on access of water.

Story by Kianna Bonnick 

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