Are charities really the solution to the clean water crisis?
Diseases from dirty water kill more people than all forms of violence – including war. There is a clean water crisis as I wrote about in my post last week, but what is the solution and is it solvable?
The clean water crisis is solvable we just have to help people get it. We do in theory have enough water, the problem is the amount of freshwater available (which is finite). The problem is getting it properly distributed and managed. But all around the world the world groundwater supplies are being depleted as shown by the NASA Grace mission.
In fact the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal SDG6 has set the timeline to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”. Access to clean water improves health, gives kids more time in school, empowers women, boosts economies and gives them hope for a brighter future. Access to clean water must be a long-term provision and not a short term charitable project.
In the past the solution has been for an array of charities providing water to people in Africa – there is no denying that the work of charities has been important, yet too often water pumps have been left desolate as communities have not been empowered to maintain or fix them. In a conversation I had with Dr Xavier Le Flaive, Director of the Water Team in the Environment Directorate at the OECD, he spoke of the importance of education as too often one charity’s pump stands in a village broken next to a newer pump inserted by another charity! Ludicrous!
Charities have frankly got a bad rep – lack of accountability, transparency and trust in the centuries old institution that have had increasing media attention in the past few years after directors paid six-digit incomes, workers using sex workers during humanitarian situations and only a percentage of money reaching the front line.
Charities compete with each other for funding and donations, from the public and government. Is this really sustainable? If we are trying to find a sustainable solution for access to clean water, it must be provided in a sustainable manner. The dated model of charity does not provide a truly viable, nor scalable option to the worldwide crisis.
So, what are the alternatives to charities and what is the solution? Here are some exciting social enterprises, companies and charities that are changing the face of access to water:
E-water pay is revolutionary social enterprise and uses the power of technology to make lasting social change in Africa. More people in Africa have access to a mobile than access to water!! Think about that! E-water pay have launched in The Gambia, Tanzania and Ghana inserting water pumps and are providing e-water tags that residents top up on their mobile or from an accredited seller – the equivalent of an oyster card for water. Users pay for water at the point of use which creates an accountable market, reduces consumption and pressure on a nation’s resources. Their live updates on usage and functionality ensure that technicians can fix any fault. Since their launch they have sold over 18 million litres of water. They are a company really saving the world by providing affordable water to those in Africa so that people have access to a mobile AND water – a basis for lasting nation-wide development.
Ch2oose Water is an ethical bottled water company based in Edinburgh and London that donate 100% of their profits to their charity partner – Water for Africa. They have recently completed a crowdfunding round for their new bottle INDIEGOGO – a plastic free, eco-friendly and completely biodegradable bottle! Coming to festivals this summer, you can buy a bottle of water knowing that the profits go to providing water to those in Africa. Ch20ose water maintain that Water for Africa “aren’t like normal charities, they believe in a sustained programme of investment, education and training will enable communities in Africa to lift themselves out of poverty.” What better place to start than water.
Matt Damon & Gary White have empowered more than 12 million people with access to safe water and sanitation in 12 countries since it launched in 2009. Their solutions empower millions across the world through microfinance that breaks down the financial barrier to make access to affordable household water and sanitation solutions a reality. They are also leading the charge to accelerate innovation to find new approaches to solve the water crisis and are enabling wide stakeholder conversations to create lasting change and solutions.
And finally Charity: water – they are evidently a charity, but it is changing the face of altruism by increasing transparency, accountability and trust in the institutional structure.
They have a 100% model where 100% of funds go to provision of clean water – they prove it by an audit, photos and GPS coordinates of their projects. So far, they have funded 28,389 projects and with every water project they ensure its sustainability by requiring communities to elect water committees – half men, half women. A charity working with local communities to empower them and make it their project. They are changing donating as we know it – they’ve created a Clean Water Coin as a cryptocurrency to donate, use real time video GPS mapping and online slideshows to allow donors to follow every virtual penny. Excited to get my hands on Scott Harrison’s new book ‘Thirst’ in October, and to read how they’re revolutionising charity as we know it. Now this is a charity that I do believe in, let’s hope others follow suit.
There is not one solution. There needs to be a plethora of solutions, but traditional charities are not the resolution. We need a radical new model – like that being done by Charity:water, or partnerships between social enterprises and charities like Ch20oose water and Water for Africa. However, a market-based approach like water.org or e-water pay are equally empowering millions around the world proving that pure altruism does not have to be the sole solution – not a provide, conquer and vanish, but instead the empowerment of local communities to ensure the long-term success of a project. People must be empowered through the access to water, empowered in the management of their water, and empowered in society.
A call to ACTION!
Don’t forget to invest in a social impact company or charity – the above are all worthy causes.
As you know our actions in this world do effect those the other side of the world. Follow my instagram @savingthegrace for every day actions we can take to reduce our water footprint – fresh water is finite, it is now time we play our parts.