Turn the tap, the water runs.
It’s simple, it’s easy, and we take it for granted. In the US, water flows through the pipes directly to our homes, provided we pay our water bills on time. And while the US has had its issues in the past providing clean water to its citizens, the means are there.
Access to clean water is a necessity for life, yet for many, it is a luxury far out of reach.
At Discount Filters, we strive to make clean water affordable. But for those outside our sphere of influence, who don’t have a refrigerator or sink that can be fitted with a filtration system, what options are there?
Thankfully, there are organizations throughout the world that are working hard toward a day when everyone on earth has access to clean water.
We’ve vetted these sources to ensure that they are quality, that they are among the best organizations to donate to, and that they are effective at carrying out their task.
Why is Access to Clean Water So Important?
If you had to guess what kills more children daily worldwide than AIDS, malaria, and measles combined, what would you guess?
Turns out, it’s none of those.
It’s Diarrhea. In the United States, an inconvenience that is the butt (ha) of many jokes. Around the world, however, it accounts for 11% of deaths for children under 5 years old.
Over 80% of the deaths associated with diarrhea are attributable to unclean water and poor sanitation. As children drink dirty water, they are exposed to diseases like rotavirus.
In the US, not only can we vaccinate against rotavirus, starting at 15 weeks old. And even if a child contracts it, we are able to combat it by providing fluids and rest until the child heals.
In developing countries where clean water is scarce, the only source of fluids for a sick child may be MORE contaminated water. You see the problem.
This is in addition to other water-borne illnesses such as cholera, conjunctivitis, and parasitic infections
There are lots of solutions here, and each must work in tandem with others to fully solve the problem. But a full solution to this issue always begins at the same place: access to clean water.
The Unseen Suffering of Water Access
There is a component of water access or the lack thereof, that is perhaps not spoken about as much, and may not occur to the casual observer.
That of female empowerment.
Wait a minute. This isn’t a political article.
And you’re right, it isn’t. And while water-borne illnesses kill boys and girls indiscriminately, girls and women are most affected by other aspects of inadequate water access.
In many developing countries, it falls to young girls in a family to collect water, often walking hours and miles to the nearest source of clean water, and carrying it back to the family home.
This work is backbreaking and often comes at the cost of an education. After all, you can’t be expected to go to school if you are walking two hours each way to collect water every day.
Unsanitary water for washing also isolates menstruating girls who have no means to wash sanitary products or clothes, causing them, again, to miss out on an education.
This lack of education stifles a woman’s earning potential, often trapping them in cycles of poverty and abuse and keeps entire communities trapped in an impoverished state indefinitely.
How can you help? Let’s look at four of the best organizations to donate to
When you think of water relief, you probably think of short-term mission teams digging wells in impoverished communities.
There’s a problem with this model, though. When we send teams, solutions tend to be US-centric, rather than taking into account the culture and needs of the indigenous communities.
Water.Org bypasses this problem by putting solutions in the hands of local families.
Water.Org operates by giving small, easily repayable loans to local families in areas lacking clean water.
Families are then able to find a water system that works best for them. It’s important to note that, in many communities, the problem isn’t that safe water systems aren’t available. Rather, they aren’t affordable.
By providing the necessary capital in the form of small loans, that barrier is removed. Children can go to school, families can maintain employment or industry, and lives can be changed.
The question then becomes: Why loans rather than grants?
Not only do loans decrease the financial burden on Water.Org, allowing them to reach more families, but loans are an empowering financial service.
Loans allow benefitting families to take ownership of both the capital and the solution. It is never something handed to them, but something they have striven for and worked for, without being an unnecessary financial burden. The program strikes a balance between attainable and empowering in order to achieve maximum results among the benefitting populations.
Water for People
Water for People, like Water.Org, operates under a micro-finance model, providing small loans to communities and families to help fund water filtration systems.
Water for People, however, also focuses its efforts on sustainable, long-term solutions.
Much of Water for Peoples mission is focused on training. They train mechanics, contractors, and waste management personnel so that any water systems put into place can be adequately maintained and that infrastructure surrounding these water systems doesn’t crumble.
They also focus heavily on accountability, ensuring that loans and dispersed funds are spent on water systems, and training data specialists to ensure their programs are effective.
In addition, they help motivate behavioral change in communities to promote good hygiene and sanitation. This often involves teacher training and social art performances demonstrating proper handwashing and sanitizing techniques.
Splash International has a truly worthy goal, in serving some of the most vulnerable populations in the world. They focus their efforts on orphanages, hospitals, shelters, and schools serving children in poverty.
For many of these institutions, the sheer volume of children in their care multiplies the hardships of inadequate water access.
Splash steps in by piggybacking onto already existing infrastructure pieces, such as those that serve hotels and food establishments, and reconfiguring them in a way that works for hospitals and orphanages in resource-poor communities.
Their goal in any water project is 100% coverage of a given area, meaning that for a specific region, their goal is 100% of the water needs for the orphanages in that region. A lofty goal, but a worthy one.
They focus on providing training and education with resources, then handing over control and autonomy to the benefiting community, phasing out their own involvement over time.
Safe Water Network
The Safe Water Network implements their vision a little differently.
The problem with many water solutions is that they fail within a few years. Without ongoing capital and training, there is no way to repair systems that break or wear.
The Safe Water Network helps launch safe water stations to serve communities. Families pay a small amount to access the water (much like a water bill in America, but at the point of access). They also provide training to technicians so that the systems can be repaired if and when they break.
In this way, they provide a sustainable., long-term solution that does not require a constant presence by the non-profit itself.
And while it may go against altruistic instincts to ask people to pay for water, the reality is that, for long-term success, capital is needed. Maintenance costs money, as does the manpower necessary to deliver that maintenance.
If the money and manpower for that maintenance and repair come from the impacted community, a sense of ownership is fostered that contributes to long-term success.
How to Help Improve Access to Clean Water
So how can you do your part to ensure access to safe, clean water for everyone?
Well, donating to one of these organizations is a great start. Dollars in the bank equal feet on the ground a water in cups.
But beyond that, advocacy and sustainable solutions at home mean cleaner water for everyone. Using eco-friendly products and being mindful of the pollution produced in your home helps by keeping the earth clean in the first place.
Advocating for policies that create sustainable aid programs and environmental policies also ensure clean water for all for years to come.
Responsibility starts with everyone. Learn how we are doing our part here.