Develop an indicator for Solar Water Disinfection

by SODIS Foundation
One of the indicators we are testing (
One of the indicators we are testing (

Dear supporters,

Every 20 seconds, a child dies because of diarrhea. As diarrhea is mostly caused by poor water, sanitation and hygiene conditions, we feel that our project can make a difference in this regard. In the project, which you supported in the past, we want to develop and produce a low-cost device to tell the user when their water is safe for consumption by making use of the method of Solar Water Disinfection (SODIS). Here is a short update from the latest developments:

One of our partner organizations ( has just managed to produce a first small series of their indicator. We are currently talking to this organization on how to obtain funding for a field test - we want to give this device to 1,500 families in order to collect more data on the use and usefulness of the current design. Producing the device was just a part of the project, we now need to obtain funding for the distribution logistics, for the field promoters and for the data collection process.

This field test is important as it will help us identifying what are the key factors for an adequate product design. In our case, indicating the user what to do is not as simple as you'd expect: We need to distinguish three different states (turned off; turned on an in progress; ready) and communicate these states to the user in a simple way. As we want to use the indicator with low-income families and with people who often are illiterate, we need to find ways of communicating with the user without the use of text. In order to be able to use the same device in a number of different cultural settings (not only in Bolivia, but in Latin America, Africa and Asia), the communication also needs to be universally understood. Luckily, the spread of mobile phones in many low-income countries helped to establish a set of almost universally understood icons and we expect to use some of them (e.g., a smiley).

Meanwhile, we also want to test alternative designs. Ideally, we’d be able to field test different products simultaneously in one setting in order to compare their effectiveness and reliability. We hope that by creating some competition among different providers we will obtain the best results: a low-cost indicator which can help thousands of families to determine when their water is safe for consumption. With a small donation, you can support us in this task and be part of a simple solution for saving lives.

Thanking you in advance and with best regards from the project team,

Matthias Saladin


Safe drinking water - 1 of our 2 finalist photos
Safe drinking water - 1 of our 2 finalist photos

Dear Supporters,

As you probably know, development is not a steady process. This is especially true if development concerns a completely novel device and if your setting is in low-income countries – as is the case with our indicator for Solar Water Disinfection. While at times, there were laps ahead and exciting connections to people from unexpected areas, there also are times when things move very slowly. Our project is just in such a phase – for example, it took more than two months to ship some of our newly developed prototypes to Bolivia. The hard part was not actually shipping them, but getting them through customs – like many low-income countries, Bolivia has rather strict import policies and not the most cooperative officers… In any case, the new prototypes are now where they should be (in Bolivia) and this means that testing can start within a few days.

In order to protect the intellectual property of our partner organizations, we currently cannot provide pictures of the prototypes we are testing – several of them have patents pending. However, once these processes are completed, you will see the ground-breaking changes the devices went through, becoming ever smarter and sleeker, and at the same time more affordable.

At the same time, we would like to point out to an international photo contest on the Global Giving website. The SODIS Foundation has two photos among the finalists – check them out and vote for the ones you like best. It takes less than a minute (don’t forget to confirm your vote by answering the e-mail you will receive instantly), and the winning organization will receive 1,000 USD extra for their project.

We hope this project up-date is useful for you. Please let us know what you think about it or what other information you want us to provide.

Thank you for your support and best regards from the whole project team,


Women's group at a project community

Dear Supporters,

First of all, we wanted to inform you that the fundraising campaign in February was a huge sucess: We raised $2,487 from supporters like you, and the Rockefeller Foundation increased this amount with additional $5,780.06 in matching funds! This is great news and we would like to thank all of you who made this possible.

Thanks to these donations, we can now prepare the next project phase. Currently, we are waiting for several groups - from universities as well as from companies - around the world to send us their next generation prototypes for the SODIS indicator. The SODIS Foundation then will run a series of tests in order to check the accuracy of the devices but also the acceptance by potential users, which is at least as important as the technical part.

We also wanted to share with you the good news that the "Water for Life Award" this year went to a project of the SODIS Foundation. This imporant award is organized by agencies of the United Nations in order to promote particularly effective projects in the field of water management and awareness of water issues. The first prize in the category 'best participatory, communication, awareness-raising and education practices' went to the SODIS Foundation. On World Water Day (March 22), during a special ceremony at the Headquarters of the Food and Agrictultural Organization in Rome, the award was handed over to Elsa Sánchez, executive director of the SODIS Foundation. The organizing institutions also will help disseminating the results of this project; currently, a short video is in preparation and we will be sharing with you its release in the coming weeks. We want you to feel part of this success - because of supporters like you, we can keep developing such innovative projects and reach out to the people who most need it.


Thank you again and best regards from the whole project team,

Matthias Saladin

P.S. May 13 is Mother's Day - why not make a donation to one of your favourite projects in the name of someone? The Mother's Day Tribute Card Campaign is active now: Make a donation to one of our projects and select the third option, "gift or in honor of,” under the orange donate button on the project page. GlobalGiving will send the gift recipient an email, print-at-home, or physical card. Several fun card designs are on offer and you can choose a customized design.


Safe drinking water - thanks to SODIS
Safe drinking water - thanks to SODIS

Dear friends and supporters,

We just wanted to inform you quickly about an important fundraising opportunity: Between now and February 29, all donations received through to our project will be matched by 200%! That is, for each dollar donated, GlobalGiving will add two more, thus tripling the amount you donate. We think this is a great opportunity to achieve a great impact and support this important initiative further. Please be aware that matching funds, so act quickly (availability of matching funds can be checked here).

This opportunity is related to the Global Giveback Challenge, an initiative by the Rockefeller Foundation, InnoCentive and GlobalGiving to find solutions to water-related problems in developing countries. The project of the SODIS Foundation is one of only four projects which have been selected at global level, and we are truly excited about this opportunity.

Please share this information with friends and families who may be interested in making a donation or just in spreading the word.

Best regards,
Matthias Saladin


P.S: You can also support our project by mobile phone (Only works for US mobile phones): Text GIVE 7089 to 80088 to donate $10 to Develop an indicator for Solar Water Disinfection. Message and data rates may apply.

Full Terms:


First generation prototype
First generation prototype

Dear supporters, 

It has been a while since we last informed you about our activities regarding the development of an indicator for solar radiation. We are interested in such an indicator because solar radiation is a very effective means to disinfect drinking water (see for more information on the SODIS method), and one of the factors limiting the widespread use of this method is the fact that radiation dose is difficult for laypersons to estimate. With a simple SODIS indicator, this hurdle may be overcome and thus the task of bringing safe drinking water to millions of people in the world made easier.

In 2010, we were invited by GlobalGiving to set up an open innovation challenge for such an indicator. The challenge was presented on one of the leading open innovation platforms ( and participation has been overwhelming. Among more than 70 entries we identified a winner, which at that time was a team of students from the University of Washington. Motivated by this success, the team then developed a business plan and in 2011 won an international business plan competition. During this time, the students set up their own company (, which will now focus on the technical development of the indicator.

The key point in advancing the idea of a low-cost SODIS indicator is to produce it in large quantities. However, at the current stage, we want to try these indicators in the field and keep improving them, so we need small quantities. We expect the final price to be below 5 USD per unit and thus even cheaper than we originally anticipated. But for the moment, we are making small productions of prototype series, which are costly. However, we are confident that within a few months we will have a product which meets the needs of users and which can be produced massively.

Currently, we are negotiating with several groups who are working on the idea of a SODIS indicator in order to produce a next generation prototype which can be field tested. In the next few weeks, we will inform you about the results of these negotiations and the next steps of our project.

We also want to inform you about an important fundraising opportunity coming up soon: Between February 1 and 29, all donations received through to our project will be matched by 200%! That is, for each dollar donated, Global Giving will add two more, thus tripling the amount you donate. We think this is a great opportunity to achieve a great impact and support this important initiative further. Please share this information with friends and families who may be interested in making a donation.


Best regards from the whole project team,

Matthias Saladin

Alternative set-up: Prototype II
Alternative set-up: Prototype II



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Organization Information

SODIS Foundation

Location: Cochabamba - Bolivia
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Matthias Saladin
Executive Co-Director
Tiquipaya, Cochabamba Bolivia

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