WT: Chong Tee, please introduce yourself to our viewers and give us a brief overview of Wateroam. Describe the journey that brought you to the vision of building a world without prolonged thirst.
Chong Tee: Wateroam is a water innovation enterprise that develops simple and portable water filtration solutions for a better world. In catastrophe we see hope, in poverty we see possibilities.
Wateroam was first conceived in 2014 when David Pong and I met at NUS (National University of Singapore) through a Hydropreneur Programme, an accelerator programme started by PUB (Public Utilities Board, Singapore’s National Water Agency).
We identified that the lack of access to clean water in the world is a serious issue plaguing many developing countries; with their water woes usually exacerbated during a disaster.
Going without food and shelter for a period can be truly trying, but going without clean water can prove to be fatal. Especially in rural areas, a vast number of people are forced to drink water straight from potentially contaminated sources like rivers and lakes.
WT: How did your team get together?
Chong Tee: Despite coming from different disciplines, David from business, and Vincent and myself from Engineering, we realized that we were like-minded with a common objective – we all wanted to do something about the global water problems faced by many less privileged in the world.
We began designing a water filtration system catered to disaster zones and rural regions. After the competition, we were able to pool our resources and build a working prototype that was deployed in Indonesia and Cambodia.
Upon receiving a positive response on the ground, we were motivated to find a more sustainable way to replicate more of these systems as a social enterprise with the vision of building a world without prolonged thirst.
WT: Recently you were invited to participate in the UN Water Conference as one of the Global Top 14 Innovators.
You have also received a long list of awards. What has this recognition meant for you?
Chong Tee: This accolade has helped us bring attention to the water issues plaguing the world, bringing us one step closer to providing safe drinking water to 30 million more people in disaster-hit or rural communities. More importantly, this recognition gives us credibility, spotlighting our innovation and rallying the world to work towards a sustainable future.
WT: You are on the ground in Ukraine and Turkey & Syria. You also have provided disaster relief to other areas affected by natural disasters. Please tell us more about these humanitarian relief stories
Chong Tee: Wateroam is tackling the global challenge of contaminated drinking water – a major cause of poor health in rural and disaster-affect communities across the world.
Two billion people globally are still using a source of drinking water that is fecally contaminated. Most of these communities drink directly from natural water sources such as ponds, lakes and rivers for their daily needs. Unfortunately, a large part of these water bodies harbour bacteria and viruses which cause illnesses such as Cholera, Giardia, chronic diarrhea, or even premature death.
WT: How does your system work? Please describe the technology. What are the advantages?
Chong Tee: Wateroam designs portable, simple-to-use water filtration systems that transform unsafe water into safe water in a matter of minutes.
Our membrane filtration technology operates without electricity and can be implemented for hard-to-reach communities at a highly affordable and sustainable level.
The ROAMfilter Plus is a portable water filtration system that packs a high output capacity of ≥ 250 litres per hour, providing clean water for an entire community of 100 people.
The robust membrane technology means long product life and the hand-pump design allows for instant operation environments without access to electricity. The system is designed with versatile power sources and can be driven by a gravity-fed water supply, bicycle power or even with an electric pump to provide clean water on demand.
WT: Is your system only for disaster relief?
Chong Tee: Through our years working with our various partners, we see that there is also an increasing need for simple and affordable water filters for urban homes, especially in peri-urban areas.
There is also an appetite for ethical consumerism, where people want to support social enterprises that are not providing high-quality solutions at the expense of people and the environment.
These combined needs spurred us to develop simple and affordable home filters that can provide clean drinking water from the tap while engaging customers to do good for the planet.
WT: What has your global impact been so far?
Chong Tee: Since its inception in 2014, our solution has been able to benefit more than 250,000 people across 38 countries, including Ukraine, Turkey, Myanmar, Indonesia, Cambodia, The Philippines and Nepal.
WT: “Water Education” is important to you. Please tell us about your outreach.
Chong Tee: While our focus is on the humanitarian, social and household spaces, we will not be able to solve the problem if people are unaware of it or how to bring solutions forward.
We host and attend events year-round, and we encourage people to become ambassadors, share our story on social media, give the gift of clean water, partner with us, or even intern with us.
Water is truly a scarce resource – increasingly so due to climate change.
More importantly, our goal is to raise literacy on the significance of water conservation and the role it plays in achieving global sustainability.
WT: What message do you have about aquapreneurship for young students?
For fellow aquapreneurs, it is important to find a niche that aligns with your passion. Consider areas such as water treatment, conservation, irrigation, water-efficient technologies, and even water-based tourism.
Water is not only a vital resource but also an essential aspect of life.