Water is perhaps the most intertwined, and basic, resource on our planet. Nevertheless, billions face water-related challenges, varying from lack of water and sanitation services to hindrances on livelihoods and socio-economic activities. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) recognize the broad role that water has for development, and also call for the private sector to participate in solving these numerous development challenges. This study looks into the potential of frugal innovations as a means for the private sector to engage in water-related development challenges. Our findings, based on a case study and literature review, indicate that frugal innovations have potential in this front due to their focus on affordable, no-frills solutions. However, we also recognize pitfalls related to frugal innovations in the water sector. Although the innovations would, in principle, be sustainable, deficiencies related to scale and institutional structures may emerge. These deficiencies are linked to the importance of water in a variety of processes, both natural and manmade, as well as to the complexity of global production-consumption value chains. Increasing the innovations’ sustainability impact requires broader acknowledgement of the underlying value chains and their diverse links with water. A holistic view on water can mitigate water-related business risks while increasing wellbeing on an individual level.
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