If you’re like every other human being on the planet, chances are you need water to survive (those post-gym showers are also nice). But even though we rely on it, humans don’t always do a bang-up job of caring for our freshwater sources.
Who knew that it takes 53 gallons of water just to make that latte we grab on the walk to work? Or that it takes between 3,000 and 6,000 gallons of water to power one 60-watt incandescent bulb for 12 hours a day over the course of a year? Meanwhile, nearly 800 million people around the world lack access to fresh, clean water for cooking, drinking, and basic hygiene.
To call attention to the disparities between human needs and global realities, the United Nations has designated March 22 as an annual World Water Day. What’s this event all about, and why should we bother celebrating it? More importantly, how can we help and what organizations are leading the charge for a healthier, more equitable planet? Read on to find out.
What’s the Deal?
This year marks the 20th anniversary of World Water Day (WWD), which started in 1993 as a means of bringing awareness to the importance of freshwater and advocating for its sustainable and equitable management. This year’s WWD focuses on the theme of cooperation around water.
Why cooperation? Managing water is a big challenge since it’s unevenly distributed around the world. Management is further complicated by the fact that the hydrological cycle is complex and easily disturbed, and activities hundreds of miles away can affect the water supply downstream. Like it or not, every person on this planet is connected by the freshwater circulating throughout the globe. Because of this, water can be a big source of conflict — but it can also bring people together in really heartwarming ways. To prove the point, we’ve rounded up 27 organizations working to bring awareness to the importance of water conservation and improve access to clean water all over the world. Check ‘em out below!
27 Organizations Working to Make Water Clean and Accessible Around the Globe
Non-Profits for Change
Drop in the Bucket
Based on the premise that clean water is a human right, Drop in the Bucket works to build wells and sanitation systems at schools throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Through these efforts, the organization hopes to provide schools and communities with the tools necessary for improving child health, increasing school enrollment rates, and promoting gender equality. The organization’s work has earned substantial accolades from the press as well as endorsements from celebrities such as Henry Rollins and Russell Brand.
WaterCan is a Canadian charity tackling global poverty by providing impoverished people access to clean water, basic sanitation, and hygiene education. WaterCan’s approach is unique in that it focuses on implementing projects that specifically involve and benefit women and girls, who often suffer disproportionately from lack of access to clean, safe water. That's because girls are primarily responsible for fetching the water needed for household use (a task that can take several hours a day, thereby preventing school attendance, growing crops, or running small businesses).
Though it’s met with some criticism, Charity: Water has nevertheless established itself as one of the most well-known water charities out there. The organization donates 100 percent of the money it raises to installing water technology in at-risk communities and training community members to maintain and manage these projects.
WaterisLife focuses on providing both short- and long-term solutions for clean drinking water and sanitation in schools and villages in developing countries. The organization partners with several villages in Northern Ghana and has been working in Haiti since the earthquake, sending thousands of personal water filters and setting up hygiene education and pump rehabilitation projects in 32 villages in Northern Haiti. They have also developed the WaterisLife “Village,” a network of donors who commit an annual amount to cover WaterisLife’s annual operating costs so that 100 percent of donations can be funneled into water relief projects.
Co-founded by Matt Damon (featured in the video above), Water.org seeks to go beyond drilling wells to ensure that all projects are sustainable for the long-term, involve local partners and community members, adequately address sanitation and hygiene, and have appropriate monitoring systems in place to keep track of issues and successes. They have also developed the WaterCredit initiative, which uses small loans to individuals and communities to empower people to address their own water needs.
Water to Thrive
Water to Thrive focuses both on bringing clean water to communities in need and on connecting donors who sponsor these projects to the communities they help. To that end, they partner with organizations on the ground to make sure that a given community’s needs are being adequately met, and document the entire project via GPS coordinates and photos to be shared with project donors.
National Wildlife Federation
While many organizations focus on the water crisis faced by humans, NWF approaches the issue from a slightly different perspective: that of ecological health and biodiversity. To help maintain the health of the planet’s water systems, NWF works to restore Clean Water Act protections, make climate change and wildlife impacts part of the conversation about the nation’s waters, and preserve wetlands, streams, and floodplains — all of which are of great importance to the health of ecosystems and the human communities who rely on them.
A grassroots organization dedicated to empowering communities to work together, Blood:Water Mission tackles two distinct but interrelated crises — HIV/AIDS and water — in Africa. The organization funds programs pertaining to iWASH, or Integrated Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene. The goal is to empower citizens with the technology, skills, and know-how to improve hygiene and sanitation practices in order to heighten the health impact of clean water.
Ryan’s Well Foundation
When he was in first grade, Ryan Hreljac learned of the pressing need for clean, safe water in so-called developing countries. So, at the age of seven, Ryan set to work raising enough money to build a well at Angolo Primary School in northern Uganda. Three years later, the Foundation was formed — and since then it has helped build over 720 wells and 910 latrines to bring safe water and improved sanitation to more than 760,500 people.
Water for People
Water for People focuses on fixing failed solutions to water crises around the world (broken water pumps, filled latrines, etc.). The organization focuses on developing lasting, sustainable projects that correlate to the needs of entire regions, not just households and villages.
In addition to implementing projects geared toward water safety and effective sanitation, Water Charity focuses on educating people about the need and benefits of proper hydration. With the help of partners (including the Peace Corps), the charity surveys community needs, drafts specialized plans, implements clean-water projects, and evaluates the results to ensure lasting change.
Just a Drop
Just a Drop focuses its efforts on reducing child mortality by delivering accessible, clean, safe water to at-risk areas around the world. Through grassroots efforts and donor and volunteer support, the organization constructs wells, boreholes, pipelines, hand pumps, and latrines and establishes health and sanitation programs to empower citizens to improve their own health.
Project WET: WorldWide Water Education
The Project WET Foundation seeks to reach children, parents, teachers, and community members the world over with water education. To that end, the organization publishes water resource materials in several languages, provides training workshops on a variety of water-related topics (such as water quality and conservation), organizes water-related community events, and is developing a worldwide network of educators, scientists, and water resources professionals.
H2O for Life
H2O for Life focuses on educating and inspiring youth to become active in shaping health and social justice around the globe. Through service-learning projects focused on the global water crisis, the organization provides students in the United States, Canada, and the UK with hands-on experiences that allow them to learn firsthand just how impactful they can be in the work for global access to clean, safe water. The organization also donates money for the funding of water projects throughout the developing world.
National Geographic Society’s Freshwater Initiative
National Geographic’s Freshwater Initiative is an action-oriented educational campaign designed to teach people about the importance of freshwater and empower them to commit to small actions (such as recycling, installing low-flow shower heads, and fixing leaky faucets) that will help conserve this precious resource.
Thirst Relief International
Thirst Relief works in impoverished rural areas and urban slum communities to improve people’s long-term health via the implementation of sustainable water projects. Through infrastructure development, training, and financial and technical resources, the organization, along with its partners, works to determine the particular needs of a community and help community members design and implement tailored water projects.
Clean Water Fund
The mission of Clean Water Fund is to develop strong grassroots environmental leadership in the United States and bring together diverse interest groups to work cooperatively for changes that benefit the health of humans, the environment, and communities. To date, the Fund’s nearly one million members have organized to help develop, pass, and defend laws such as the Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Superfund, and others.
Blue Planet Network
Talk about cooperation! Blue Planet Network is all about connecting the movers and shakers in water access and management campaigns — anyone from funders, NGOs, the general public, and communities in need — to maximize the impact of water and sanitation programs. The Network's technology services enable its members to plan, manage, monitor and analyze over 1,600 water projects totaling $41MM. Thus far, Blue Planet Network’s 97 global members have helped more than 1,000,000 people across 2,300 communities in 27 countries obtain access to safe drinking water and sanitation programs.
In 2009, WaterAid launched a Global Strategy aimed at achieving four goals by 2015: to promote poor people’s rights and access to safe water and improved hygiene and sanitation; to support governments and service providers in delivering these same products and services; to advocate for the role of safe water and adequate hygiene and sanitation in human development; and to develop as an organization recognized as a leader in the field. If all goes according to plan, by 2015 the organization will have reached 100 million people through both its direct work and its influence on governments and service providers.
Water 1st International
Water 1st focuses on building a worldwide community of concerned individuals and mobilizing them to take action for better water access. These actions involve providing sustainable, clean water systems, toilets, and hygiene education, and engaging women as community leaders.
A global movement of on-the-water patrols who protect more than 100,000 miles of rivers, streams, and coastlines on six continents? Yup, it’s a real thing. Members in more than 200 local Waterkeeper Organizations work on the water, in the courtroom, at town meetings and political forums, and in classrooms educating young people about the importance of fresh, clean water the world over.
This Shirt Helps
Here's a for-profit company making a difference in the non-profit world. This Shirt Helps donates a percentage of every shirt sold to a charitable cause such as clean water initiatives, disaster relief, and more. The shirts are simple monochromes with no prominent logos, but that's the point: Everybody needs an undershirt or simple crewneck, so why not buy one — from This Shirt Helps — that also helps the planet? The company is branching out into bracelets and even ethically-sourced headphones to spread their message. Greatist was so intrigued, we actually source our very own shirts from them!
On the surface, Life Soap is a company that sells, well, soap. But the company has also developed an extensive social good campaign designed to provide clean water and better opportunities to children in Central America (Life Soap also plans to expand its programs into Africa). The company donates portions of the proceeds from its sales of monthly and bi-monthly subscriptions to funding clean water projects for schools.
Run for Water
In collaboration with HOPE International Development Agency, the Run for Water 5K and 10K events (which take place in two Canadian cities each year) ask runners to raise funds for the installation of fresh water delivery systems in Eastern Africa. Getting fit while doing good? Sounds like our kind of race.
From production to sales, the Dopper water bottle is dedicated to preserving water and improving access to it around the world. The bottle itself is made in Holland with no carbon footprint, and using it in place of plastic bottles means less plastic that might end up in the ocean. For every bottle sold, five percent of the proceeds are donated to Simavi, a clean water initiative working throughout Asia and Africa.
The idea for Generosity Water was born when Pastor Phillip Wagner read a newspaper article about the challenges facing Sub-Saharan Africa. With the help of friends, family, and church-goers, Wagner began raising funds to build a clean water well for a village in Malawi. From its humble beginnings, Generosity Water has grown into a full-blown organization that uses 100 percent of its profits gained through the sale of bottled water to support organizations building wells in Africa.
Are you involved with any of these organizations? Did we miss any? What are your favorite tips for reducing your water usage? Share in the comments below or get in touch with the author on Twitter @lauranewc.