Water is the thing that most of us take for granted. It’s there when we turn on the faucet in the morning to brush our teeth. It’s available when we want to run a load of laundry. When you jump in the shower and turn on the tap, there it is. It hydrates us, it nurtures us, it’s the liquid that keeps everything alive. And nearly one billion people in our world lack access to safe water.
In a great example of a celebrity using their fame and resources to draw attention to a tremendous problem, Oscar-winning actor Matt Damon and Gary White (an expert in water-supply systems) created Water.org in 2009 with a goal of finding resources to provide access to clean and safe water to as many people as possible.
According to the Water.org website, every 21 seconds a child somewhere in the world dies from a water-related illness and 3.4 million around the world die every year from a water-related disease. Over 780 million people have no access to clean water (that’s more than two-and-a-half times the population of the United States).
Do you like taking long showers? Well, an American who takes a five-minute shower uses “more water than the average person in a developing country slum uses for an entire day” (according to the site). Makes you think, doesn’t it, about the sometimes cavalier use we make of water, how we assume it will always be there for us. Most of the developing countries in this world don’t have the luxury of clean, accessible water like we do.
Water.org’s philosophy is community ownership of the projects it funds. While a lot of the funding of these projects is done through grants, Damon’s organization works with WaterCredit that puts microfinance tools to work to help community develop clean water and better sanitation. Individual communities contribute at least 10% of the total cost of the project (either financially or through obtaining materials needed or physical labor to complete the project). The microfinance community through WaterCredit provides small loans so that local individuals can invest in their own water and sanitation systems. Since individuals and small communities in developing countries typically don’t have access to traditional funding or borrowing options, WaterCredit bridges that gap for a community to address its own water and sanitation issues.
Funding for the Water.org foundation is done through donations on its site and via Facebook gifts. The site says they’ve partnered with MasterCard and Pepsi, among other businesses, which support their efforts. And they remind us that water is a resource that is starting to run out, and that we waste so much water every day while others do without it. If we run out of oil, our cars won’t run and our houses may be cold. If we run out of clean drinking water, we won’t survive.
What’s the last thing you bought for $25? Maybe you went to the movies and had some popcorn and a soda? Maybe you had Chinese food delivered to your house one Friday night? $25 will provide clean water to a person in a developing country for life. Makes you think, doesn’t it?