The St Andrews Prize for the Environment

University of St Andrews


11 July 2018



At 19 years old, Kathy Ku saw a problem and began working towards a solution. 10,000 people in Uganda were dying every year from drinking dirty water. Instead of taking a job with a consulting firm after graduation, Kathy stayed in Eastern Uganda with 2 colleagues to set up Spouts of Water.

Kathy explains more about her journey in the National Geographic Short Film, linked below, as part of its Chasing Genius community.

“Access to clean drinking water is a basic human right, and it seems stupid to not have a solution for it.”

Using her engineering background, and considering the abundance of clay in the region, Kathy designed a ceramic water filter – a simple approach which uses physical filtration.  

In 2016, Spouts of Water was a finalist at the St Andrews Prize for the Environment. Showcasing their innovative, considered and sustainable approach, involvement in the Prize allowed the organisation to expand further.

“We were pretty ecstatic to find out we were a finalist for the St Andrews Prize. Through the process, we have become connected to the Royal Society of Engineers, and a ceramics expert also came out to Uganda to help with our production. Since taking part, we have moved into a new factory which has the capacity to produce more than 10,000 filters per month.”

From an initial grouping of just three, Spouts of Water has grown to a team of over 50 employees. Through their outstanding work, they have provided access to clean drinking water to over 100,000 people. But as Kathy says, “there’s still much more to do!” as she wants to provide a filter to every home in Uganda.

“We are currently growing and expanding. To better reach our customers, we’ve started doing a Direct to Consumer sales model where our sales team goes out into villages to offer direct loans for our products.”

So what does Kathy suggest for those developing an environmental solution?

“Dream big! Your dreams for scaling can be reached with the help of those around you.”

Find out more about Spouts of Water in the National Geographic Short Film linked below, or visit their finalist page.  

Chasing Genius: Spouts of Water