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Not a Drop to Drink

Kelly Coleman of Save the Rain believes a solution is falling from the sky—all we have to do is catch it.

Living without clean water is not something most of us have experienced. Without access to safe water, survival becomes an everyday confrontation. Picture living with stomach flu every day for the rest of your life. Now imagine walking all day, every day for five gallons of dirty water. Then, think about boiling the water to purify it, losing half of it to evaporation and then finding more hours in the day to replace what you have lost.

This is just where the problems begin.

Diarrheal diseases are caused by unclean water, and are the second-leading cause of death in children worldwide. School-age children sacrifice precious class time to search for water for the school’s sanitation and drinking needs. At the onset of puberty, girls are often denied an education entirely and condemned to collect water for their families and communities, sometimes late at night. The reality of not having access to clean water gets even worse—specifically for women and children.

AIDS is another major world health concern, which at first glance, may seem unrelated to the Global Water Crisis. There is a horrible misconception in the developing world that if you have a sexual relationship with a virgin you can cure yourself of AIDS. Ground water resources are in remote areas, and collection happens well before dawn and long after dusk. Predators holding these mistaken beliefs hide out in the remote areas where water is collected, and child rape becomes a common occurrence.

There is no mistake that the Global Water Crisis is huge. To tackle this issue, we have to get over being afraid of how big it is, and realize that we can all participate in the solution. So often, we read about a humanitarian issue and say, “That’s terrible; someone should do something about that.” Have you ever considered whether that ‘someone’ could be you? The idea that everyone has the ability to affect change in the world lies at the very foundation of our organization.

A completed water catchment system in Kingori Ward, Tanzania

Completed water system

Driven by compassion and a need for justice, Save the Rain has been providing clean water to thousands of Tanzanians for nearly a decade. Our goal is simple: to create new possibilities for people by helping them gain reliable and safe access to clean water. To date, we have helped more than a quarter million people, simply by harvesting the rain, and we don’t plan to stop until this crisis ends.

Despite our efforts, we’ve only scratched the surface of this global issue. By 2025, the United Nations estimates that almost two billion people will live in areas of water scarcity, and that number is growing.

At Save the Rain, we believe the solution to this crisis is falling from the sky—all we have to do is catch it. We harvest rain because when one inch of rain falls on a thousand square foot area, 600 gallons of clean drinking water can be harvested—and freely delivered by Nature—to every doorstep.

All of Save the Rain’s projects require no electricity, no filtration, use only locally available materials, are all constructed by hand, by village-elected labor, and require very little maintenance.

Our work begins with the construction of a large-scale rainwater harvesting system built on top of the village primary school. These systems are large enough to provide communities with safe, reliable and accessible drinking water. To eliminate the need to walk for water altogether, small residential rainwater harvesting systems are built by women for women in a program called the Women’s Water Initiative. Large enough to sustain a family of eight for a year, these systems empower women and unchain families from the cycle of poverty and disease.

Deforestation directly affects the viability of rivers, streams and even rainfall. When rainfall becomes irregular, food becomes scarce and water becomes even more difficult to find. We educate primary school students on the issue and distribute 50 trees to each school and four trees to each resident. In the past year alone, more than 7,500 trees have been distributed and planted.

Measuring health, evaluating program challenges and successes, maintenance checks and regular water quality tests are all part of how we measure the impact of our projects. The results show a 94% improvement in general health and a massive increase in the number of students continuing to secondary school, of which more than 50% are girls.

We need to challenge our perceptions of scarcity and abundance. In the developing world, abundance is not about luxury. It’s about providing everyone with possibility, and clean water is where all possibility begins. Today, the poorest Americans (those living below the poverty line) have more wealth than the richest Americans did 100 years ago. Of those, 99% have electricity, clean water, flushing toilets and a refrigerator. It only costs us $15 to bring a child clean water for the rest of their life and life of their future offspring.

Once I heard the Dalai Lama say that we have arrived at a time when meditating on, praying for and conversing about issues is not enough, and that we must move our intentions to taking action. March 22nd is World Water Day—I invite you to use your voice to advocate for the billions of people living without access to clean water. We have the power to make clean water available to all. Imagine what an abundant world that would be.