Nika: A Gift of Clean Water

By Roy L Hales

Screen-shot-2014-03-18-at-3.43.47-PM1This started out as a “green tip” advising people against purchasing bottled water.  Then, in the midst of gleaning items from the web, I came across Nika’s website.  Nika is a Zulu word meaning “to give” and also the name of a La Jolla based bottled water company that is probably more ministry than business.

“We donate 100% of our profits back to the cause, “ the General Manager,  Jordan Mellul, told me.

That money has been used to finance projects like 60 new water access points, and latrines for the school, in Babati, Tanzania. Nika teamed up with Project Concern International and, for only $20,000, was able to help the local population of 1,025 benefitted, at a cost of only $20,000. Similar projects have been completed in Sri LankaUganda and Nicaraugua.

Photo Courtesy Nika Water
Photo Courtesy Nika Water

Jeff Church and his family founded Nika Water after returning  from a working vacation in Ethiopia and Kenya.  They wanted to do more.  Mellul was residing in New Jersey when Jeff contacted him, but has been with Nika ever since it started in March 2009.

“A lot of environmentalists are negative about bottled water,” Mellul said.  “We decided to look at every one of their concerns and address them individually.”

As a result, Nika became the world’s only known carbon free plastic bottled water company.  They obtained this distinction  after calculating the emissions connected to their product, in every step from obtaining the raw materials, through manufacturing, to when the customer finally disposes of the bottle.  This led to their decision to plant a tree for every 98 bottlesthey produce.

Another concern is the discarded bottles.  A “plastic soup” twice the size of the United States is floating in the Pacific Ocean.  According to Nika, the US produces around 60 billion plastic bottles every year and two thirds of these are discarded. To cut down on this waste, Nika makes its bottles out of recycled plastic and has also partnered with the school system in a special program that ensures at least one bottle is recycled for every bottle Nika produces. (Nika pays schools to recycle bottles.)

Nika’s Third World projects grew out of the Church family’s awareness of the scarcity of water in sub-Saharan Africa. The average US citizen uses 100 gallons of water a day. Every time we flush the toilet, the amount of water that most people in the Developing World have access to (for ALL their needs) goes down the drainpipe.  According to the United Nations, 95% of the World’s population dumps raw sewage into their water system.  As a result, half of the patients in their hospitals are suffering from water borne diseases.  More than 4,500 children die every day because of unclean drinking water. Nika was conceived as a partial solution to this problem.

They are currently selling water in Seattle, Portland, New York and through-out most of California.  Nika is expected to receive revenues of slightly less than a million dollars this year and pay out a third of it to special projects.

According to Jordan Mellul, Nika is more than a job. He gets out of bed around 6:30 every day and, as much of his work is at home, is usually working by 7 am.  His workday is supposed to stop at suppertime, but it is too tempting to check the computer in the evening – and that can easily lead to another four or five hours of work. So Mellul usually works around 80 hours a week, which he says is the norm at Nika. “This is my life, my passion my baby,” he said. I suspect that many people are grateful for it.

Image Credits – photos courtesy of Nika Water


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