I’m noticing a trend: our last three articles have been about organizations that use the word “global” in their titles. It’s the perfect word. It embodies what these organizations represent: the universality of human experience, change on a planetary scale. Distance doesn’t separate our natures. We are all citizens of one world. We have to take care of each other. I’m reminded again of our humanness by the subject of today’s article: Global Water.
Like the word “global,” “water” speaks to every heart. Without water we die. And yet, in so many places clean drinking water is unavailable. Mothers give dirty water to their children, hoping it won’t make them sick. Unfortunately, it often does. There are 1.6 million deaths per year attributed to dirty water and poor sanitation, 98% of which occur in the developing world. An estimated 2.4 billion people lack adequate sanitation and 1.1 billion people are without access to safe water (WHO-UNICEF, 2004). The average distance women in developing countries walk to collect water is four miles.
Compare these numbers to the average American household. It consumes 127,400 gallons of fresh, clean water every year. We take water for granted in the U.S. We take long, hot showers. We water our lawns all summer long. Many of us don’t think twice about buying bottled water, an exorbitantly wasteful industry considering how universally safe our tap water is in this country. Shockingly, each American wastes an average of 10 gallons a day simply by neglecting to fix leaky faucets. It takes 70 gallons of water to fill a bathtub.
Water is a basic need, and it’s not being met. Global Water was founded in 1982 to try and address this massive, planet-wide problem. It’s founders, former U.S. Ambassador John McDonald and former White House Special Assistant to President Carter, Dr. Peter Bourne, were inspired to action by the World Conference on Water in 1977. Global Water does not involve volunteers directly but they work with NGOs focused on water supply projects. Global Water helps to advocate for water purification projects, provides equipment to communities in need, and raises funds to help with ongoing productive work in developing countries.
This organization offers an interesting model for emerging humanitarian water non-profits. The vast network of NGOs, local aid groups, and international project-based non-profits can itself become disorganized. Organizations that provide some oversight and coordination can enact change by connecting all of the pieces. In the end, Global Water helps organizations stay focused on the big picture: bringing safe drinking water to as many people as possible, worldwide.