Department Environmental Social Sciences

Business innovations for making water kiosks more successful

Water kiosks can provide safe and affordable water services to communities, if managed properly. In addition to challenges with operation and maintenance, many kiosks sell less water than expected, because communities do not change their behavior towards safe water consumption. To mitigate these problems, social marketing campaigns are needed, which influence the communities’ preferences and motives in order to increase sales. Other options for increasing revenues include developing water distribution channels and broadening the scope of business activities, such as offering additional products and services at the water kiosks. Organizations managing multiple water kiosks face difficulties in covering the investment costs for the water kiosks. As a result, scaling-up the number of water kiosks remains a challenge. We work with organizations such as Swiss Fresh Water, Weconnex, the Oromo Self-Help Organization, and Nakuru Defluoridation Company to identify drivers and barriers to scale. In addition, we currently investigate the landscape of water kiosks as well as community water system models and try to understand what critical success factors there are. We collect data and successful practices on business models and business innovations for scaling up water kiosks.


Together with two other research groups from eawag (EHPsy and Safe Water Promotion) we look into the key challenges to make water kiosks more succesful across three levels:

Water consumers:

• Consumers’ preferences and motives regarding the use of different water sources

• Promotion and marketing campaigns for safe and affordable water

• Consumer behaviour


Single water kiosks:

• Income generation

• Ownership models

• Capacity building for entrepreneurs, institutions and communities in managing and operating water kiosks


Multiple water kiosks:

• Scaling-up approach to increase the number of water kiosks

• Achieving financially sustainable business models

• Organising maintenance and business support for the water kiosks

For the level of the single/multiple water kiosks we observe following business model innovations (click to zoom):

In general, we distinguish into five different basic business models



Lars Osterwalder

WASH Consultant

Addis Ababa