Like many problems, the ripple effect of this issue is truly alarming. Beyond the health ramifications, a lack of access to safe water and sanitation inhibits education, job creation, commerce and more.
The interconnectivity of the water crisis is particularly evident when examining the lives of women and children in these communities. Forced to skip work and school to search for clean water, it is estimated that women spend 140 million hours per day collecting water — precious hours that could be spent in productive employment or going to school.

However, when safe water and sanitation is accessible, not only is there a drastic improvement in the quality of life on an individual scale, there are huge returns across the board. It is estimated that providing sanitation to everyone who needs it would return $220 billion each year to the global economy. Furthermore, The World Bank estimates that for every $1 invested in water and sanitation, at least $4 is returned as money saved from health care costs and increased economic productivity.

Adamant that the key to breaking the cycle of poverty lies in the elimination of the water and sanitation crisis, non-profit organization Water.org is striving to bring safe water and the dignity of a toilet to all. Co-founded by Gary White and Matt Damon, Water.org has transformed hundreds of communities in Africa, South Asia, and Central America by doing just this. In particular, they are driving the water sector for new solutions, financing models and partnerships to create lasting change.

To address the root of the problem, Water.org’s market-based model, WaterCredit, is empowering the world’s poor with access to small loans for household water connections and toilets, WaterCredit creates a cycle of opportunity — an opportunity to enhance their health, education and economic position. As the loans are repaid, the capital is recycled, allowing WaterCredit to reach five to ten times as many people as a traditional grant over a ten-year period.

“Water.org views the nearly one billion people who are living and dying for water access as customers with rights, responsibilities, financial power and the energy to design their own futures” Gary White, CEO and Co-founder Water.org.

While visiting local communities in 2013, Gary and Matt heard stories that confirmed their approach was working. They met a woman in Bangalore who spends about 1,200 rupees each month for her family to buy water and pay to use the public toilet. With that same 1,200 rupees a month, she can get a loan to build a toilet and to get a water connection in her house — and after only two years the loan is paid off. Not only will this save the family money in the long run, but immediately their daughters are free to attend school and the women have the time to go to work.

To date, WaterCredit has empowered more than one million people in five countries with access to safe water and sanitation. WaterCredit borrowers typically have no credit history or formal education, however with a remarkable 99 percent global repayment rate, WaterCredit is a safe, stable and life-saving investment. Once a high risk experiment, WaterCredit is now changing the face of the water crisis.

And this is just the beginning. It is projected that by the end of 2015 this number will grow to 3 million. Help Water.org transform even more lives with safe water.

For more information visit Water.org today.