The Mighty Susquehanna  © pam lazos

Thanks to Nicholaus Rohleder for penning his thoughts on the 9th WWF in Dakar.  This is part four of a four-part article.  The opinions expressed by Mr. Rohleder are his own and not necessarily representative of those of Global Water Alliance.

by Nicholaus Rohleder


Consumer Facing Products 

Consumer facing products that enhance quality of life in the western world are challenging to systemically copy and paste into the developing world due to the fact that they require an exceptionally localized hub and spoke approach. For the purposes of simplicity, the lack of toilet access and a possible solution based on learnings from the forum can be used. 

In most frontier markets of emerging market jurisdictions, the head of the household making the decisions regarding changes to the household is the woman. Given this, models around accessing basic sanitation have to be centered around the female in this household. When thinking about the toilet for example, and associated plumbing needed to put it in place in a neighborhood, a distribution model of known quantity products must keep women in focus. Existing product distributors and manufacturers interested in creating real impact in the developing world must embody this and create a plan of action accordingly. 

Furthermore, building on the importance of process knowledge to continue to receive funding within a developing market jurisdiction, women must be targeted for educational programs. Not only do women control the household in this case, but also the education of the children and the future generations of prosperity. It is crucial that women are engaged from an educational perspective and empowered to drive education specifically on process knowledge in the developing world. 

Rural-Urban Dichotomy 

The areas in which the water crisis is most acute are rural, not urban, and it is imperative that appropriate attention be given to this matter. Water and sanitation in rural areas must include attention to and integration with livelihood concerns (husbandry, agriculture, fisheries). Water and sanitation in schools and healthcare settings is of vital importance to the educational system and public health system. In general, as noted at the forum, the relevant actors in this area are UNESCO, UNICEF, the WHO, and the FAO.  

However, these actors have not come together in developing and frontier markets to address the critical issues in water that inhabit economic growth and improvement in the quality of life in rural jurisdictions. OECD countries have a long history of specialized, and often cooperative banking for sectors such as agriculture in rural areas, which translates into the uplifting of these communities out of poverty, hardship, and water insecurity. 

In these rural markets, the scale of sanitation demand is smaller, the literacy levels more lacking and professional capacity often absent or “brought in”. Hygiene around husbandry is highly relevant for public health purposes and culling of animals is most often associated with lack of such hygiene principles. Given this, the general financing models described prior in this text do not lend themselves to generating exponential impact in rural jurisdictions. However, instruments such as credit enhancements and loan guarantees are relevant and applicable. In terms of a  “market failure’ (just like hunger in the affluent countries like the USA) there is evidence that philanthropy capital and micro-financing schemes can be highly instrumental to re-direct that failure. To supplement these schemes, credit enhancement and loan guarantee programs are vital to programmatic and accelerated deployment of peripheral solutions. 

Concluding Remarks

Solving the water crisis, which will be the largest humanitarian crisis facing humanity in the coming decades, is possible and does not require the degree of technological innovation that is put forth in mainstream media. As the World Water Forum has made clear, there is a prescriptive method of increasing infrastructure investment leading to local education, permanent economic benefits, quality of life enhancement, and the empowering of all citizens within afflicted communities. The World Water Forum showcased the convergence of the entrepreneurial world concerned with the water crisis, and the policy world, which has been sounding the alarm on the magnitude of the crisis for decades. We are in the first inning of solutions, while being past the ninth inning with respect to the magnitude of the problem. We can expect much progress in the years to come with proper focus now on the global water crisis. 


Nicholaus Rohleder is a Co-Founder of Climate Commodities, a financial technology company that operates the largest digital marketplace for offtake contracts, feedstock contracts, and insurance solutions in addition to a critical minerals mining, processing, and refining business and solar + energy storage business in the renewable power sector; Co-Founder of the New American Energy Fund, a hedge fund focused on the climate technology supply chain and energy transition; serves as an Adjunct Professor at the Earth Institute and the Climate School at Columbia University teaching a course on life cycle analysis and materials science; an Alumni Board Member at the Earth Institute at Columbia University; a member of the production team for the Energy Policy Now Podcast at the University of Pennsylvania’s Kleinman Center for Energy Policy; a member of the Energy Technology Leadership Council at Tulsa Innovation Labs; and part of an economic development initiative funded by the $4 billion dollar George Kaiser Family Foundation. Mr. Rohleder received a Master of Environmental Studies with a concentration in Environmental Engineering and Technology from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master of Science in Sustainability Management with a concentration in Environmental Finance from Columbia University, and is a former Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree.  

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