Johnson Diversity Series - Khunapong Khunaraksa - The Water Innovator

Mar 2020

Khunapong Khunaraksa is a Water Innovator, Asia Pacific Expert and International Storyteller.

Recently, Khunapong was recognised as the Community and Advocacy Winner of the prestigious 40 Under 40: Most Influential Asian-Australian Awards. The awards, founded by Johnson, celebrate and shine a light on the achievements of young Asian-Australians, providing a steppingstone to future leadership opportunities.

For Khunapong, the Award went far beyond recognition for his professional contribution towards improving clean water accessibility in South East Asia. Khunapong has a strong belief in living out one’s purpose in this world, his ‘ikigai;’ a term borrowed from the Japanese, meaning “a reason for being”. For Khunapong, sharing his experiences has been a bittersweet journey. Khunapong lost both parents and his older brother before the age of 30. 

In November 2011, Bangkok experienced the worst flood in Thai history. Khunapong flew out his disabled mother to Chiang Mai, his grandmother’s hometown. He stayed to protect his home and assist flooded communities. What he observed gave him a unique perspective on the impact of severe water events on local communities. 

Khunapong is a true global citizen having lived in Australia, San Francisco and worked in seven ASEAN countries. He has seen firsthand how access to safe water can change and empower communities. Having been exposed to extremes in water crises in both Australia and Thailand, he discovered his ikigai in educating others and working towards water innovation and sustainability.

Did you know?
1. 844 million people around the world lack access to clean water
2. 2.3 billion people around the world lack access to sanitation
3. The global water crisis requires $114 billion dollars annually to solve. 

Khunapong currently serves on the Board of Directors for two organizations; Masy Consultants and Gravity Water, a not for profit organization helping facilitate access to drinkable water for children in Asia. 

Over the last four years, he has helped scale a number of global water startups across Southeast Asia, one of these being Water.org. Water.org is a global nonprofit organization working to bring water and sanitation to the world. Khunapong was involved in the build and scale of Water.org’s inaugural water utility financing program. Water.org collaborates with local utilities to help those on ground get access to safe water and sanitation through affordable financing, such as small loans. 

By October of this year, the program will deliver clean, piped water to over one million people in Indonesia, the Philippines and Cambodia. To date, Water.org has touched over 27 million people, more than 8 million in the past year alone. Khunapong’s story has been an inspiring lesson in how one person can touch the lives of so many underprivileged.