Women tap groundwater supplies to access water from a hand pump, Agra.

Thali Water

British bottled water production sits at 2.2 million litres per year while 1,600 people in India die every day from waterborne diseases. It’s a disturbing parallel. Determined to make a difference The Thali Cafe teamed up with Bristol charity FRANK Water to create Thali Water.

What is Thali Water?

Thali Water is a litre bottle of freshly filtered water available at The Thali restaurants across the city charged at an opt-out fee of 50p. 100% of the money raised from Thali Water is donated to help ensure safe water and sanitation to people living in the urban slums of Agra, India.

So far, donations from Thali Water have raised £25,000, helping to reach families in Agra. The money will save families money, time and energy on water collection, securing the future of their children. Over a three year period, the programme aims to reach a total of 500 families. FRANK Water works with community stakeholders to plan and implement safe water supply, proper sanitation and good hygiene practices. Community ownership ensures each project’s long-term sustainability.

The Thali Water Project is an example of a collaboration between two small organisations with an effect that far outweighs the sum of its parts. By working together on a simple, scalable initiative, FRANK Water and The Thali will change the lives of thousands of people who currently live in poverty.

Standard practice for CSR in small organisations is often high-effort, low-yield employee fundraising or takes the format of a straightforward charitable donation as a tax break or percentage of profits. Thali Water is different. Aside from the initial investment, Thali Water requires very little input and effort. In this way, Thali Water provides a model of good practice for other small and larger independent and chain cafes, bars and restaurants. In fact, FRANK Water has already approached other stockists of FRANK Water’s own brand bottled water to encourage them to change over to a Thali Water model. This initiative is called Drink Me Save Lives.

Case Study: Salim’s story

Salim Khan lives in Islam Nagar, a slum settlement in Agra with his wife and four young children. When he arrived 25 years ago there were hand-pumps that provided a good supply of clean and safe ground water, now the groundwater level is so low that the pumps are rendered useless. For water, the slum’s community must rely on water tankers, run by a local mafia who hike up prices, safe in the knowledge that their customers will be forced to buy from them for drinking, washing and cooking. Over the last three years, the prices have more than doubled and are even higher during the dry season. To add insult to injury, water from the tankers is often unsafe causing illness, often severe, which particularly affects the very young and the very old. In India, a child dies from waterborne disease every 20 minutes.

A little boy drinks from a cup of water in the street outside his home, Agra India.

A little boy drinks from a cup of water in the street outside his home, Agra India.

Salim’s wife, Asiya waits all day for the water tankers to arrive. They turn up at irregular times and stay for just 15 minutes. There is always a clamour to collect the water and then find space to store it in an already cramped home. Asiya feels frustrated that she has to hang around waiting for the tanker, as it means she cannot go out to work. The tankers don’t always arrive and when it does, water is sold on a first come, first served basis. If Asiya doesn’t make it to the front of the queue before the water runs out, she and her family must go without until the next delivery. Often, children are kept home from school to wait for the tankers – affecting their education and their future.

A young girl carries water home, Agra India.

A young girl carries water home, Agra India.

Our charity partners FRANK Water and NGO partner CURE conducted a household survey. Along the way, they advised households on how best to collect rainwater and encouraged residents to build tanks on their rooftops that would harvest and store rainwater. Salim and Asiya listened to the advice and took action. They gathered together the funds to buy and install a rooftop tank to store water, freeing them from the daily drudgery of buying water from the tankers. As a result, they were able to work more and eventually invested in a second underground tank that is fed from the tanks on their roof. Now they’re self-sufficient for up to 4 months per year, which has literally changed their lives. Their home has become used as a model for the area and an example to the government of good practice.

CURE and FRANK Water are looking at community-wide solutions, including building a huge water tank underneath an unused play area. Once built, this tank will have enough capacity to provide water to a large number of homes. On top of this FRANK Water has funded school hand washing and sanitation programmes. NGO Staff targeted children in particular to ensure that information is filtered through to whole families.