Waste for Water: One Solution for Two Problems Faced by Coastal Communities

I first visited Bali’s Nusa Penida island in 2017, as part of the community service to complete my bachelor’s degree at the University of Udayana. During the month I spent on the island, I noticed that there was a lack of clean water access for local communities. Each day, they had to travel back and forth to Sampalan -- the island’s center -- to wash and purchase drinking water. I also realised that the village had limited waste management facilities, resulting in environmental pollution.

Three years later in 2020, and now part of Kopernik’s Solutions Lab team, I found myself back in Nusa Penida to address the water and waste challenges I identified three years earlier.

In September 2020 -- with the support from Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI) -- Kopernik launched the ‘waste for water’ project to provide an alternative source of clean, affordable drinking water through a desalination plant which also offered an alternative payment system using recyclable waste. After reviewing several potential locations in Nusa Penida, we decided to build the desalination facility in Banjar Angkal in Suana Village. There was no functional water infrastructure in the village, but there was an abandoned communal well filled with brackish water that could supply water to the desalination plant.

Conducting a survey with the community.

We conducted a baseline survey to better understand the drinking water needs as well as the waste management issues in the village. We found that there was no waste bank operating in Suana Village, we therefore partnered with Yayasan Nusa Penida Bersih, a waste management organisation based in Batununggul Village, who agreed to purchase the recyclable waste collected through the waste for water project in Banjar Angkal.

Participatory workshop with the community to determine how the facility would be operated and managed.

In December 2020, a two-day participatory workshop was held to determine who would be in charge of managing and operating the facility. A team was then formed which includes a manager, an admin assistant, two waste officers, and a mechanic. The workshop played an important role in engaging the community, including the village government.

We then provided intensive entrepreneurship and business training for the management team so that the facility could become a sustainable business. We collaborated with I Wayan Sukadana, former director of a community-owned company in Klungkung, to provide the training which included business plan development, basic financial skills, as well as team management.

Water desalination facility

There were some challenges along the way. Due to the COVID-19 situation, we encountered problems in procuring several components of the desalination plant -- resulting in a delay in the installation. Through a partnership with Wujudkan, a start-up focusing on sustainable technology distribution, we managed to complete the installation of the desalination plant in early February 2021. The desalination unit works by purifying water from the communal well through several steps: sediment filtration, water softener, reverse osmosis, and UV sterilization. The desalinated water has been tested at the Health Department Laboratory which found that it was safe to be consumed as drinking water. The desalination unit has the capacity to produce 1,800 liters of drinking water per day.

We also partnered with members of a youth group to conduct an educational campaign on the importance of clean water and waste management - and promoting the community-led water desalination business. Flyers and posters were distributed to more than 200 households and 40 public facilities. The educational campaign also included information on how to sort waste and the benefits of recycling. By the end of February, 116 households had exchanged their recyclable waste for water gallons filled with clean drinking water from the facility.

Dissemination event

We then shared information about this initiative during a two-day event with the Secretary of Nusa Penida district, 12 village representatives, and other community members. Two villages in Nusa Penida, Batununggul and Ped indicated that they were interested in replicating the initiative in their respective villages.

It has been fulfilling to be able to address the two problems I found in Nusa Penida back in 2017 -- access to clean water and waste management issues -- through this initiative.

“Creating a community-led “waste for water” water-desalination business to provide clean drinking water to coastal villages in Bali” is supported by the Canada Fund Local Initiatives, which is funded by the Government of Canada.