Solar powered water desalination facility – The Barefoot College

Technology: Solar powered reverse osmosis water desalination system
Stakeholders: Villagers living in the desert that need clean water
Process: Bottom-up approach, The Barefoot Movement

When addressing sustainability challenges using technology, we often adopt a top-down approach – we bring together a bunch of well-educated science and/or management graduates who try to address the problem by inventing something. That is undoubtedly an interesting approach, and has given us several incredible leaders to look up to. In this post, I want to highlight a bottom-up approach where in women from communities use experiential learning methods to use technology to address sustainability challenges within their villages.

Rajasthan, a state in India, is home to the wide and inhospitable Thar desert. The Barefoot College is an international non-governmental organization based out of Tilonia, a village in this desert. Like any other desert environment, the Thar desert has abundant sun light and very little water. A major challenge within this village was to provide the villagers with clean drinking water in spite of the minimal rainfall, desert conditions, and available brackish water. The Barefoot College brought illiterate women from the village together to construct India’s first solar powered reverse osmosis plant that produces 3,600 litres of clean water every day and provides drinking water for over 1,000 villagers. This solar powered water desalination facility is powered by a 2.5- kilowatt self-constructed solar generator, that creates an uninterrupted supply of water without relying on the electric grid. This technology along with well integrated rainwater harvesting technology and the Neer Jaal website (with information about ground water) has helped make clean water available for several villages in India.

Adopting a bottom-up process made the implementation of this technology seamless and successful. The Barefoot movement put thought leadership into action within rural environments across 3 continents.

This TED talk tells us more about the process implementation and the approach that made grassroots initiatives successful:

More about the technology is available here:

Addressing SDGs:


[UNI: mb4033]


One thought on “Solar powered water desalination facility – The Barefoot College

  1. This is a great find Mitika! I thought that this is an effective method to address the issue of water scarcity, with an educational component for the locals on finding alternative ways to obtain water.

    The use of readily available materials to construct the desalination plant makes it affordable and accessible to the villagers. This familiarity with the materials definitely makes this bottom-up approach more effective in the sense that they are less likely to lead to abandonment of the technology.

    I also really enjoyed reading about Neer Jaal, the locally managed, open-source water mapping website. I thought that this is a great way to educate, raise awareness and engage communities on their local groundwater resources.


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