Providing safe water to >1 billion people in need is a major challenge. To address this need, the Safe Water System (SWS) - household water treatment with dilute bleach, safe water storage, and behavior change - has been implemented in >20 countries. To assess the potential sustainability of the SWS, we analyzed costs in Zambia of “Clorin” brand product sold in bottles sufficient for a month of water treatment at a price of $0.09. We analyzed production, marketing, distribution, and overhead costs of Clorin before and after sales reached nationwide scale, and analyzed Clorin sales revenue. The average cost per bottle of Clorin production, marketing and distribution at start-up in 1999 was $1.88 but decreased by 82% to $0.33 in 2003, when >1.7 million bottles were sold. The financial loss per bottle decreased from $1.72 in 1999 to $0.24 in 2003. Net program costs in 2003 were $428,984, or only $0.04 per person-month of protection. A sensitivity analysis showed that if the bottle price increased to $0.18, the project would be self-sustaining at maximum capacity. This analysis demonstrated that efficiencies in the SWS supply chain can be achieved through social marketing. Even with a subsidy, overall program costs per beneficiary are low.

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