Clean water entrepreneurs tackle global problem

Monday 2nd November 2020, 5:00pm

Dr Stephanie Terreni-Brown, one of three founding directors of Clean Water Wave, discusses with The Herald Scotland why the company was formed, and their unique 'CAFE' system.

Dr Stephanie Terreni Brown, Clean Water Wave - credit Clean Water Wave CIC

Clean Water Wave was formed in July 2017 and during their first year of trading, the company has recently  taken up office space at Roslin Innovation Centre.

Managing Director Dr Terreni-Brown explained that whilst there is a lot of clever technology out there that cleans water, the company felt it was often far too expensive, energy-intensive, and maintenance-heavy to be effective for rural and small-scale community use. 

The team share experiences of working and living in situations where they have seen the impact that drinking contaminated water has on a daily basis – the illness and devastation wrought by the consumption of dirty water. However, none of them had seen any water treatment system that they felt was fully functional and effective in rural or low-income urban contexts.

Clean Water Wave (CWW) was sure they could do something better and felt it would be criminal for them not to at least try and develop a system that was, as far as possible, simple and easy to maintain but still did a great job of treating water. And that is what they have been doing ever since being officially incorporated in 2017 – developing, testing and trialling their technology to provide clean water to rural or low income communities. 

CWW started developing the Clean Aqua For Everyone (CAFE) system with low and middle income countries in mind, but soon realised that there was also a domestic market for CAFE. The technology was developed with a lot of determination, effort, and a ‘try and try again’ approach. The companys' two technical minds, Howard and Matthew, spent a lot of their evenings and weekends working out the engineering specifics, with everyone working together to build different iterations and discussing what they needed to design out for the system to be as simple and effective as possible.

CWW's main focus was bringing together the minds who could conquer the challenge. They are a group of pioneers, scientists, philanthropists, economists and storytellers who can challenge the way clean water is provided globally. Together, they have the scientific, technical, commercial and critical community engagement skills to deliver and make the Clean Water Wave mission a reality. As an example, a key breakthrough was their partnership with Dryden Aqua and the involvement of Howard Dryden. The technology works due to the AFM activated filter media, supplied by Dryden Aqua. AFM is an activated media based on Howard’s PhD research and manufactured by Dryden Aqua by up-cycling 50 per cent of all the coloured glass bottles in Scotland and Switzerland. CWW is a social enterprise with a unique business model that sees them reinvesting all profits from selling the CAFE to commercial partners into funding CAFE installations for communities in need.

By marketing 'CAFE' as their unique product, CWW have territory-specific distributors who purchase the product license for commercial sales. These commercial sales are to mining companies, the agricultural sector, and water treatment companies (for drinking water treatment and for wastewater tertiary treatment). CWW also work with other social enterprises like Challenges Worldwide to develop a different business model for low income communities for drinking water and agricultural water treatment purposes.

"It’s a privilege to work with the awesome people I work with, and to work towards achieving such a fundamental right to have safe water. The Clean Aqua For Everyone (CAFE) water treatment system is our unique product for low energy decentralised treatment of water. CAFE means high quality water can be delivered without mains electricity supply or lots of maintenance or reliance on chemicals for treatment purposes. It is a plug and play piece of kit designed to be robust and extremely long lasting."

Dr Stephanie Terreni-Brown, Clean Water Wave CIC

"Westminster and/or Scottish governments are committed to driving innovation, yet a lot of public pots of money – particularly those that are intended to help develop tech and innovation – are not open to social enterprises. Social enterprises are businesses. Both governments also need to better understand the impact of water quality on our environment."

Dr Stephanie Terreni-Brown, Clean Water Wave CIC

Before founding Clean Water Wave, Dr Terreni-Brown was a management consultant, and before that an academic studying water and sanitation-related issues in East Africa. A combination of private low-interest loans and public sector grants helped secure start-up funding, and having a knowledgeable accountant proved critical to helping Dr Terreni-Brown feel confident. She said one of the most important lessons she had learnt was the product development takes a lot of time, costs a lot of money and requires constant pushing. Having more knowledge about manufacturing processes from the start would have been extremely valuable.

Full article published in The Herald Scotland