February 16, 2012

Clean Water to a Thirsty World. ~ Cynthia Koenig

Photo: Wello Group


elephantjournal.com is honored to support the Unreasonable Institute as media partner.

In the months leading up to this summer’s Unreasonable Institute 2012 (our founder Waylon Lewis is one of the mentors), once every two weeks, we’ll share the story of one of the savvy social-good entrepreneurs who—with the support of their community—came from around the world to attend last summer’s Unreasonable Institute.

If you enjoy these stories of inspiration and elbow grease, please share with your community, or leave a comment for the entrepreneur. Consider it a way of tying yourself in a little with some important, fun, good karma. ~ Waylon Lewis, ed.


The poor struggle to collect one or two gallons of water per day. These same individuals have access to cell phones, to the internet, to mobile banking… but no access to clean water, the most basic of human needs.


About Wello:

Wello is a social venture with a bold mission: to deliver clean water to a thirsty world. By reframing the water crisis as an opportunity, Wello has reinvented the wheel and developed an innovative business model that empowers individuals to use the WaterWheel as an income-generating tool to lift their families out of poverty.

Wello’s social impact is baked into our business model; the better our business does financially, the greater the positive impact we have on communities around the world. But it was clear from the start that the people who needed the WaterWheel the most were the ones with the least ability to pay for it. We had to get creative in finding ways to help them afford it. The first step was to design the WaterWheel for extreme affordability.  But even then, there were still people in our target market who still couldn’t afford it. So we developed a model that allows people to earn income by setting up their own water delivery services to cover the cost. This not only provides income for their families, but helps improve the health of the whole community.

 Why do I do what I do?

The idea for Wello was born out of my experiences living and working in over a dozen different countries over the last decade. Despite the fact that I didn’t work specifically on water issues, no matter where I went, I came face-to-face with the water crisis. In a nutshell; people need access to a minimum of five gallons per day to stay health and hydrated. But the reality is that the poor struggle to collect one or two that the same individuals have access to cell phones, to the internet, to mobile banking… but not have access to clean water, the most basic of human needs? I became obsessed with this disconnect, and launched Wello while I was in graduate school.


From a design perspective, the idea of rolling liquids (such as water) is nothing new; people have been using this method for centuries to move all kinds of things! In fact, it’s why wine comes in casks, and was the main way goods were moved on and off of ships. The barrel shape is easy to move, and convenient to store when tipped up on its side. Add a handle, and you have the WaterWheel, a tool that transports five times the amount of water as compared to traditional methods, in much less time, and much more easily. The real innovation lies in Wello’s business model—how do we deliver a product that is affordable for people with limited resources, and how do we get it into their hands? 

To watch the ABC interview with Cynthia, click here.


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