A staggering 780 million people in the world don’t have access to treated water, while an even more shocking 2 billion lack improved sanitation. That’s about 35 percent of the world’s population.
“Looking ahead, access to water will be one of the most critical challenges of our time,” says Damon, one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood. “The good news is that there are solutions that work.”
Water.org, which Damon co-founded a decade ago by combining forces with Gary White, an environmental engineer noted for social entrepreneurship, is successfully helping people access affordable finance to fund the clean water and sanitation solutions they desperately need to live healthy and productive lives.
“What we see as the greatest barrier between people and safe water is often finance, which is why we’ve been working with organizations to figure out how we can drive more capital and scale while still making these loans super affordable for people who need water and sanitation,” White tells us.
One financing solution, known as WaterCredit, works through partners to provide small, easy-to-repay loans to people living in poverty so they can connect to a tap or build a household toilet. Since piloting WaterCredit 15 years ago, Water.org and its partners have mobilized $2 billion and reached 25 million people. The organization says 99 percent of the loans are repaid in full and that the majority of borrowers are women.
“We’re growing fast,” says Damon. “It’s about getting the word out and spreading awareness. I’m convinced that we can overcome the global water crisis in our lifetime.”
White says Water.org’s priority is to continue to operate as entrepreneurs by finding solutions that allow as many people as possible to access clean water and safe sanitation, as quickly as possible.
“At Water.org we’re as much a social enterprise as we are a water nonprofit,” says White. “That means innovating and trying new things.”
(Some video imagery and audio courtesy of Water.org.)