Clean Water as a Crisis:

     Benjamin Franklin once observed “we know the worth of water, when the well is dry.”  This is an extremely applicable quote to explain one part of the water crisis in the world. There is not only a lack of access to clean water, but also a concern for the total use of one of the world’s most important natural resources.  Therefore, with the goal of educating the masses about the water crisis, one must consider the long term affects of our present use of the resource. 

Before any effective policy can been designed and implemented, it is important to first establish and identify the problem which the policy seeks to correct. For many citizens throughout the world, access to clean water is not possible without a three mile walk to a well. Many organizations such as the World Bank estimate that nearly 1 billion people lack access to clean water. Therefore, one in six citizens of the world lacks access to clean water. Many nations face a water crisis in some form. Some nations face contamination problems and a lack of hygiene. Other nations face a lack of access to a renewable source of water. However there still remain many nations which lack the political and economic infrastructure to bring wells to their people. Lastly, due to mass consumption of water in the western world, the overall quality of water is lessening. Therefore, the water crisis has many levels of problems. However, despite the problem the result of disease and death remains the same. It is important for citizens of the world to work to correct this problem. In the western world, there are numerous issues we are faced with trying to correct everyday. Murderous dictators, political unrest, AIDS and poverty are a few that we attempt to deal with everyday. However, there needs to be a paradigm shift in the western world so that providing sustainable access to clean water becomes a top priority. If a solution for clean water which corrected sanitation, access and sustainability were to prevail, poverty could be eradicated and economic development could bring long term security and development to third world nations.

Part 2:

What are NGOs doing to improve clean water?'

There are numerous NGOs which are working on different projects to bring clean water to people of the developing world. Many NGOs have developed their own projects which seek to correct the water crisis. The following is a series of NGOs different projects and there will be a comprehensive list of contact information for ways people can support such projects at the end of the section. I believe this to be an important breakdown because it will allow people who access the wiki to research different projects and ways to become involved with them.

One Laptop Per Child:

Due to the internet, information for obtaining clean water is readily available. Many NGOs have websites which detail the processes for building wells, maintaining the technology as well as assistance for sanitation. However, due to the lack of readily available technology, the villagers do not have easy access to such resources. There are some NGOs which are trying to bring specialized laptop computers (see below picture) to different regions in Africa which run on different types of power and use already existing technology so that villagers can find the information they need to bring clean water to their homes. The organization, “One Laptop Per Child” is the group behind the project. The laptop costs around $100 (American dollars) and as aforementioned is not dependent on electricity. The laptop was recently presented to UN General Secrtary Kofi Annan, who during the introduction struggles to turn the hand crank to make it work. However, it could be an interesting and low cost way to allow villagers the proper information necessary to build a well. The picture below shows one of the laptops as presented to UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan.


Investing in Philanthropy

The Acumen group is a non-profit group which has developed a different approach to investment and solving the problems of the poor. The Acumen approach takes money from its investors and re-invests that money in large scale projects to bring water, health and sustainable programs to the poor in developing nations. The end result is a money-making endeavor for its’ investors, but there is also a large amount of money invested in projects for the poor of developing nations. The interesting angle the Acumen group takes is that they approach philanthropy with a business model including investments, performance measurement and long term success. It is a unique approach to helping the poor and time will tell if projects using this approach are successful. There are most certainly questions surrounding the ethics behind a profit-making philanthropic entity like the Acumen group. But perhaps the true litmus test will be in how successful this proposal is.


Clean Wells

The African Well Fund is an organization which seeks to provide clean wells for people in Africa so they are able to sustain a clean-water source within their village. The African Well Fund was established in 2002 to raise money for the large organization Africare which works directly to bring wells to African nations. The Afrcian Well Fund raises money and recruits volunteers to become involved in their mission. There are many NGOs similar to the African Well Fund which seeks to provide money for wells in Africa. They serve as an excellent example of organizations citizens can donate to and volunteer for to help the clean water crisis.


Large Scale Water Projects:

The Global Water organization’s approach uses the model the US military developed in order to develop sustainable long term water well drilling and purification techniques for the developing world. The project is entitled the Rural Outreach Water Supply Program. The Global Water organization works in all parts of the developing world to bring wells which will not only bring water to parts of the world that need it, but also provide long term solutions for maintenance, acquiring proper equipment, and educating villagers on how to maintain their well so it lasts. The picture below is of a well project in Kenya. The Global Water project also provides outlets for donations and volunteers.


The Non-NGO Approach

Wherever the Need is a United Kingdom based organization which seeks to work directly with citizens of developing nations to implement projects. They also define their mission as specifically working with those who donate so the donated money can directly to improving the quality of life in the region. In addition, Wherever the Need is proud that they do not work with governments and other NGOs because they feel that they directly influence the citizens they seek to help. In addition, their focus is on building homes and community centers in the areas which they provide clean water to; the homes and buildings are all environmentally friendly. The organization works primarily in Africa.


Empowering Women:

Catholic Relief Services is a large scale, multi-national organization which serves over 94 countries in various projects. CRS works specifically in Africa to assist in the AIDS crisis, poverty and emergency relief services. CRS is an important organization because it works specifically towards educating women in developing nations. It is strongly believed in many academic circles that progress happens when women and girls are educated and empowered. Therefore, in addition to basic health services, CRS works specifically to bring education to women in developing nations. Lastly, CRS is an excellent organization to become involved with because it has a strong national presence in the United States, but also an international reputation as well.


World Water Watch

This Australian based NGO seeks to move towards water conservation. This is slightly different then the previous NGOs because it is a website dedicated to what the average citizen can do to lessen their personal intake of water. World Water Watch seeks to open lines of communication via email amongst citizens of the world, so that everyone will work towards the goal of leaving the world a plentiful place for future generations. In addition, the World Water Watch website includes several links to water conservation efforts in different nations. If one clicks on the United States flag for example, there is direct link to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) website which provides information on resource conservation efforts.


Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars has a website which has links for several different nations’ clean water initiatives. This website is very useful because it allows citizens to find links to website in their native tongues. For example, for the China page, there are Chinese NGO links as well as specific projects for different causes. Therefore, this website can allow citizens of different nations to become involved in many different projects internationally. This is a different example then previous websites, but it is something that allows for more NGO communication and collaboration.


AMREF – African Medical and Research Foundation

This is a multi-national NGO which works on several different projects within Africa, including AIDS/HIV, education and poverty. However, one of its main goals is water sanitation and hygiene. Because water-borne illnesses are a lead cause of death among children in Africa, AMREF seeks to provide economic support towards long term solutions for clean water in Africa. AMREF works in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and South Africa to educate villagers about the importance of clean water and sanitation techniques. Arguably, the best initiative of AMREF is to put the maintenance and repair(s) of wells in villages in the hands of villagers. Therefore, there can be a sustainability of the wells which NGOs build in villages.


NGOs and Collaboration:

Because of the sheer volume of NGOs, it is nearly impossible to list all of the NGOs which work on water initiatives. It seems as though with so many organizations working on the same problem, solutions should be abundant. However, the truth is that despite the large volume of organizations, there is an overall lack of coordination and mission. I believe that if NGOs and other for profit organizations collaborated on projects, there could be more long-term solutions to the water crisis. It is widely speculated that a major problem in the water crisis is the lack of government infrastructure in developing worlds; coupled with a lack of education, the problem seems unsolvable. However, with organizations like the World Bank, who seek to develop the necessary economic infrastructure, if they collaborated with some NGOs who have the funds and supplies for well building, it would seems as though they could establish a well and also a way for a village to develop a functioning economy. This is one example of a possible collaboration which could result in helping a village become self sufficient. There have been situations in which collaboration has proven successful. For example in September 2005, the global humanitarian agency, Church World Service teamed up with the Potter’s House, a Dallas based ministry, to help bring the end of poverty to Kenya . The program combines resources and expertise which came together in Kenya during a week-long event in September 2005 (this courtesy of The purpose of the week was to determine the root causes of poverty and ways to alleviate them from Africa. Included were health concerns, conflict resolution and the development of clean water resources. The groups were hoping that they can instill self-sustaining principles in Kenya which will then have the spider web effect across Africa. This collaboration exemplifies what needs to happen in order to effectively handle the problems in Africa and other developing parts of the world. For one NGO to believe that they can single-handedly solve the problems of a nation is false, but if the organizations work together to pool their resources the programs can provide a well, education and ways to self sustain, the end result will be much better for the village or nation. There are situations in which different nations have collaborated to help developing nations as well. There is collaboration within the EU to pool its resources together to fund various projects around the developing world. An example of international collaboration is the Clean Water for People initiative of 2001 in which the United States and Japan each pledged monetary support to bring clean water to the developing world . When one nation pledges money it can have a domino effect and when multiple nations pool their resources towards large scale water projects, the end result is a long-term solution rather then a cheaper temporary fix. There are also several initiatives in which multiple organizations have teamed up to improve the situation in Africa and other parts of the developing world. For example, the West Africa Water Initiative (WAWI) is a group of 10 public and private organizations which invests water-supply systems in the nations of Mali, Ghana and Niger . WAWI has had tremendous success in bringing water supply systems because they have pooled their resources and have worked to establish common goals, objectives and measurements of success. The following is the comprehensive chart of WAWI which outlines their goals:

Overall Goal: To improve the health and well-being of families and communities in Ghana, Mali and Niger Objective 1: Safe Water and Sanitation Objective 2: Disease Reduction Objective 3: Water Management Objective 4: Effective Partnership Outcome 1: Rural households have access to adequate all year round supply of water through increase in numbers of sustainable potable water sources. Outcome 1: Increased community awareness and understanding of prevention of trachoma, guinea worm and diarrheal diseases. Outcome 1: Communities (both genders) mobilized, organized and empowered to own and manage water facilities for sustainability. Outcome 1: WAWI HQ and Country teams operational with shared visions well committed to the program. Outcome 2: Hygiene and sanitation facilities in place and in use. Outcome 2: Communities practicing appropriate behaviors for the prevention of trachoma, guinea worm and diarrheal diseases at the household and individual levels. Outcome 2: Enabling environment created. Outcome 2: Partnership defines WAWI strengths (including activities, tools, approaches) to be shared and harmonized. Outcome 3: Sound environmental management practiced. Outcome 3: Residents of low-income urban settlements have access to water and adequate sanitation services. Outcome 3: Increased awareness by teachers and school children and understanding of prevention of trachoma, guinea worm and diarrheal diseases. Outcome 4: Livelihood and income generation promoted. Outcome 3: Effective WAWI Project managed and compliant with donors, governments and community standards and procedures. Outcome 4: Expanded water availability for agricultural purposes (drip irrigation and livestock watering) at selected villages. Outcome 4: School children (boys and girls) and teachers practicing appropriate health, hygiene and sanitation behavior. Outcome 5: Research capacities developed and research findings being utilized. Outcome 4: Learning outcomes in terms of lessons learned. Outcome 5: Increased efficiency in the development of WATSAN services. Outcome 5: Integration of health and hygiene promotion into school curriculum. Outcome 6: All local/community partners work collaboratively with communities for sustainability. Outcome 5: Enhanced and unified institutional capacity for government and communities

I believe this chart is useful because one of its main goals is effective partnership. Partnership or collaboration amongst NGOs, private organizations, and nations is the most effective way to solve the water crisis facing the developing world and end the disease, poverty and death. (This chart courtesy of

    An additional aspect of NGO collaboration is in their opposition to the privatization of water supply.   Due to the impact of the Millennium Development Goals, the overall level of awareness about the water crisis is increasing.  Therefore, there are pressures to privatize the supply of water in developing nations.  However, many NGOs are against this idea because water supply is a basic human right and therefore should be executed without the for profit sector.  In March of 2006 at the World Water Forum, several NGOs worked together in opposition of water privatization .  I believe this is an additional useful example of NGO coordination working on the same goals.  Whether or not water privatization is a good idea or not, the fact remains that when NGOs work together, they can be a much more effective force in fulfilling their own mission. 

How can we as citizens in industrialized nations help?

Clean water is a problem of epic proportion on many parts of the world. There is a strong connection between poverty and a lack of clean water in many third world nations. The unfortunate reality is there is an overall lack of attention paid to this very important problem in the world. There are many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which seek to bring clean water to various parts of the developing world. However, unlike the AIDS crisis in Africa, within most newspapers and news organizations in the western world, one must search for articles about the water crisis and ways people can get involved. There are numerous ways citizens in industrialized nations can become involved. Citizens in industrialized nations can assist several important ways in the water crisis. The first and most obvious way is to educate oneself about the water crisis in the world. Over 1 billion people in the world do not have access to clean water. Therefore, this is a crisis larger then AIDS and it will correct the poverty crisis currently going on in the world. People must begin to take note and demand that major players in the international world begin to do something different. Numerous NGOs (non-governmental organizations) work solely on the water crisis in the international world. A citizen can get involved in a variety of ways including, donating volunteer hours or money. Donating money is an important aspect to helping in the water crisis, but more importantly is educating all citizens that more millions of people, water is not a given. There is a list at the end of this paper which has several major water NGOs’ websites, so one can get more involved in the process.

An additional way that citizens can get involved in solving the water crisis is to contact political officials. Much of the problem with the water crisis is the major infrastructure required in nations in order to not only bring clean water, but also to sustain it. Therefore, the industrialized nations need to invest money into long term solutions to the water crisis. Currently, industrialized nations provide support for developing nations, however, it is not nearly enough. It is the duty of industrialized nations to help out developing nations and a nation cannot become developed until there is access to clean and safe water. If citizens in industrialized nations demand leaders to the international water crisis pay more attention, there is little doubt that it will be resolved. However, until citizens demand more from their nation, little progress will be made in correcting the problem. Many water experts argue that one of the largest barriers to clean water is people’s perceptions of the problem. In terms of the villagers, they are often times lacking the education to understand that water which looks clean still has many parasites and organisms which can cause great harm. In addition, there is a problem in that villagers are not versed in the dangers of human waste and contamination. For western citizens there is an overall lack of understanding about the magnitude of the problem. In addition, many citizens in industrialized nations are focused mostly on there own needs, which is not a value judgment, but rather a reality in a complex industrialized world. Therefore, the there is a clear lack of understanding of the problem, which will continue to serve as a barrier to a solution.

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