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Water Charity - 2009 Version

A note on this page's publication date

The content on this page has not been recently updated. This content is likely to be no longer fully accurate, both with respect to the research it presents and with respect to what it implies about our views and positions.

This is an archived version of our water page and is not actively maintained. For up-to-date content, see our current water page.

  • Water-related illnesses, mostly diarrhea, cause the deaths of more than 1 million children each year in the developing world.1 Charities aim to provide health and other benefits via improved water sources.
  • Benefits depend on many factors, such as the extent of water quality improvement, the convenience of a new water source compared to pre-existing water sources, and whether a water source is maintained appropriately.
  • We have not yet found an organization we can confidently recommend focused on improving water sources. (More)

How do charities help?

There are a wide variety of approaches to improving water sources. Some charities focus on creating or improving public water points, while others aim to bring water into the home via tap connections. In addition to reducing the effort necessary to collect water, these programs aim to improve health, particularly by reducing diarrhea incidence.2

What are the challenges of finding a great charity?

We feel that the success of a water project depends heavily on the following:

  • How significant is the improvement in (a) water quality, and (b) convenience? The Disease Control Priorities report argues that water programs are unlikely to have significant health benefits unless they also have significant convenience benefits, leading to behavior change.3
  • Are improvements to water infrastructure maintained over time? Evidence suggests that a significant number of water improvement projects are abandoned and fall into disrepair.4

Note that water is not the only, or necessarily the main, way that relevant diseases are transmitted.5

Where should you give?

We have not yet found a charity in this area that we can confidently recommend. For donors interested in improving lives in the developing world broadly, we recommend our top international charities. For donors committed to supporting water-related programs specifically, we recommend starting with, the only charity we've seen in this area that publishes reports assessing the condition of its wells over time.6 We also recommend asking water charities the following questions:

  • Can you share pre-project reports on the conditions of, and distances to, communities' pre-existing water sources?
  • How do you assess the improvement in water quality brought about by your projects? Can you share evidence along these lines?
  • How do you ensure that your water infrastructure improvements remain operational over the long term? Can you share the reports that come from your process for this?
  • Do you address other sources of relevant diseases, such as hygiene practices?
  • Do you track the impact of your programs on disease incidence and prevalence over time and can you share technical reports on this?

Full list of water charities we considered

This is an archived version of our water page and is not actively maintained. For up-to-date content, see our current water page.

The table below shows the 13 water-related charities whose websites we have reviewed. Most of them focus on providing infrastructure improvements, such as wells.

For each, we checked whether they published, on their website, monitoring reports of the long term condition and utilization of wells they had built.7

Organization Long term monitoring of wells? Type of information available (website) Yes Two reports available.8
Water For People (website) No -
Living Water International (website) No -
Water Missions International (website) No -
WaterCan/EauVive (website) No -
Blood:Water Mission (website) No -
PlayPumps International (PlayPumps is no longer active) No -
Lifewater International (website) No -
WaterAid (website) No -
Ryan’s Well Foundation (website) No -
Malawi Freshwater Project (website) No -