This post was originally produced for Forbes.
“There’s nothing more fundamental than the need for safe water and sanitation,” says Gary White, who partnered with Matt Damon to create Water.org.
White notes that “a staggering number of people lack access to these things. Many die as a result. Communities and countries stay trapped in poverty. About 750 million people – one in nine-lack access to safe water. More than twice that many, 2.5 billion people, do not have access to a toilet.”
“In just one day, women spend 200 million hours collecting water for their families. That is equivalent to the amount of time it would take to build 28 Empire State Buildings—in one day. Imagine the wealth these women will create when they can use these 200 million hours in productive employment, rather than foraging for water,” White adds.
Water.org has observed that many people who live in urban slums live on top of water systems to which they don’t have access. White explains that they have developed a new strategy for giving the poor access to existing systems.
White says, “We created WaterCredit to unleash the power of the poor. By enabling the poor to finance toilets and taps in their own homes, we’re spreading capital costs across a broader swath of stakeholders. Progress goes up at an exponential rate.”
“This approach is working. It’s transforming lives. And it’s ready to really take off. WaterCredit has so far made it possible for over two million people in six countries to gain access to water or build toilets in their homes. Forty-eight microfinance institutions help us administer the loans. The loans are repaid at the rate of 99%. And over 90% of our borrowers are women. Since 2004, we’ve invested over $10.9 million in WaterCredit. This has in turn leveraged an additional $97 million in commercial and social capital. Traditional charity, by its nature, is unable to achieve this kind of impact,” White concludes.
On Thursday, February 19, 2015 at 4:00 Eastern, White will join me for a live discussion about WaterCredit and its impact on the world’s poor. Tune in here then to watch the interview live.
More about Water.org:
At Water.org we envision the day when everyone in the world can take a safe drink of water and experience the dignity of a toilet. For 25 years, we have been at the forefront of developing and delivering solutions to the water crisis. Founded by Gary White and Matt Damon, Water.org pioneers innovative, community-driven, and market-based solutions to ensure all people have access to safe water and sanitation; giving women hope, children health, and communities a future. To date, Water.org has positively transformed millions of lives in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean by providing access to safe water and sanitation.
Gary White is chief executive officer and co-founder of Water.org, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering people in the developing world to gain access to safe water and sanitation, (Water.org is the resulting organization of the July 2009 merger between WaterPartners, co-founded by White in 1990, and H2O Africa, co-founded by actor Matt Damon). White’s entrepreneurial vision has driven innovations in the way water and sanitation projects are delivered and financed, and these innovations now serve as a model in the sector. Water.org is on track to have served one million people by the end of 2012.
Since 1994, White has led Water.org through more than twenty years of sustainable growth, while positioning the organization as an innovative leader in the global water supply and sanitation space. He developed the organization’s WaterCredit Initiative, creating new financing options for poor populations to meet their water supply and sanitation needs.
White is a leading advisor in the water and sanitation space, counseling organizations such as the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, MasterCard MA +0.59% Foundation, PepsiCo PEP -0.38% Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, and Diageo on responses to the global water crisis. White is a founding board member of the Millennium Water Alliance and Water Advocates.
In 2002 he received the Distinguished Alumnus Award presented by the School of Public Health at the University of NC-Chapel Hill. In 2003, he was named a fellow of the British American Project. In 2008, he was inducted into the Philanthropy World Hall of Fame. In March 2009, WaterPartners received the Skoll Foundation’s Award for Social Entrepreneurship and White was inducted into the community of Skoll Social Entrepreneurs. In October 2009, White received the ONEXONE Difference Award for his work over the past two decades in addressing the global water crisis. In 2009, he was named an advisor to the Clinton Global Initiative. In 2010, he was named the Kansas City Global Citizen of the Year by the mayor of Kansas City, MO. In 2011 he was named to the TIME 100 list of the world’s most influential people. Also in 2011 he was named one of 28 Alumni of Distinction among a pool of more than 50,000 living graduates of Missouri University of Science and Technology. In 2012 White received the World Social Impact Award from the World Policy Institute as well as being named one of the Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneurs of 2012. Most recently he became a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council White’s educational credentials include three degrees in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of NC-Chapel Hill and the University of Missouri-Rolla (now Missouri University of Science & Technology).