The search for a nonprofit water organization
Wednesday, August 17th is National Nonprofit Day, so we are making a slight departure from our usual blog posts about the science of water and hydration to talk about Splash International, a clean water nonprofit. Splash is an extremely effective organization that serves over 944,000 children around the world, with the goal to reach 1 million kids by 2023.
Wisewell is proud to have partnered with Splash for our gallon for gallon program - for every quantity of water consumed by our Wisewell users, Wisewell donates an equivalent amount of water to children in need through Splash. Thanks to Splash’s excellent goals, people-first mentality, and proven efficacy, we are confident that this program will be a step towards ending the global water crisis.
The Global Water Crisis
There are 844 million people currently living without access to water. That’s about 1 person out of every 9. Note that that’s just water in general - when you look at the number of people without access to clean, safe water, that number skyrockets to 2.2 billion. Water is important for health in so many ways: not only is hydration much more difficult without access to a clean water source, but hygiene is also much harder. Approximately 500,000 children die each year as a result of not having access to water.
Not everyone is affected by the global water crisis equally: women are hit especially hard. In many communities, women are tasked with the responsibility of finding water. They also tend to fill the role of caretaker for children who fall sick due to dirty water. Additionally, women tend to rely more heavily on water for hygiene due to menstruation: many girls leave school because they don’t have access to working toilets or running water.
Many water nonprofits focus on rural areas where wells have to be dug in order for there to be any access to water. However, even in cities, where there is already existing infrastructure, millions of kids don’t have access to clean water. This is why Splash has been filling a niche in the WASH sector in urban areas.
What is the WASH sector?
Splash is part of the WASH sector, which stands for “Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene”. The three components are intrinsically linked, because not only are sanitation and hygiene often reliant upon running water, but many people who grow up without access to running water have missed out on education surrounding sanitation and hygiene.
There are over 80 organizations worldwide that are associated with the WASH sector and are working to end the global water crisis. The efforts of these organizations have become even more important as climate change has wreaked havoc on natural resources and caused water scarcities.
What makes a good charity?
With so many organizations to choose from in the WASH sector, it can be difficult to find one specific nonprofit to partner with or donate to.
While there are many benchmarks by which to measure a charity, one of the easiest ways is through financial accountability. By definition, nonprofits must be financially transparent, and so it’s relatively simple to audit a nonprofit organization’s financial statements and tax forms.
Charity Navigator does just that, and comes up with star ratings based on transparency, accountability, and finances. It measures what percentage of donations go towards programming vs. administration.
Splash has received a perfect 4 star rating from Charity Navigator, with excellent scores of 90.94/100 in the financial category and 96/100 for Accountability & Transparency. This allows Charity Navigator to make the recommendation “Give with Confidence.”
A charity may claim that they’ve installed thousands of wells or hundreds of filtration systems, but that means nothing if most of them break, and there’s no one with the correct training to fix them. Unfortunately, that’s the sad truth for a lot of water projects. At this moment, as many as 40% of the water sources that have been installed in the developing world are broken. So many resources and so much manpower is wasted thanks to poor monitoring and training.
Splash is different.
Two of Splash’s values are “Quality” and “Mistakes”. The organization explains that they want “Beautiful products that function and last” and that when it comes to mistakes, they follow the mantra, “make them, don’t repeat them.” These two ideas are connected, because you can’t have quality without making a few mistakes. But unlike other nonprofits that might be too busy moving forward to learn from their mistakes, Splash is dedicated to making sure their projects are effective. In 2014, a water quality test in Kathmandu, Nepal found water at a school serviced by Splash to be “unsatisfactory for drinking”. At the time, Splash shared the test with the public and made a plan to learn from any mistakes. In the years since, Splash’s success rate has soared, demonstrating a dedication to perfection.
Thanks to Splash’s willingness to iterate on an idea and find the best way forward, their projects are built to last. Splash personnel train staff on how to maintain filtration systems and provide plenty of spare parts. Technical assistance is offered at regular intervals and there are support channels for institutions that are experiencing any problems with their water systems.
What sets Splash apart?
As Marc Gunther of Nonprofit Chronicles writes, “[Splash] seems to me to be a model for water charities, as well as other NGOS, in several ways - its transparency, its commitment to sustainability, its focus and its ultimate goal of becoming obsolete.”
One of the biggest differences between Splash and other water nonprofits is that they leverage hotel and restaurant supply chains in order to bring high-tech water filtration systems into schools, orphanages, shelters, hospitals, and feeding centers. This allows them to accomplish big, bold goals, because they don’t have to start from square one when it comes to transporting filtration systems into cities. For example, their first major goal was to bring clean water into every orphanage in China, a benchmark that they reached in only ten years. To date, they have served 1147 orphanages in China, 250 schools in Ethiopia, 476 schools in Nepal, and 489 schools in India. Their largest projects are currently in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Kolkata, India.
Because they are geared towards children (As they plainly state it on their website, “We clean water for kids”), they make an effort to make their projects kid-friendly. Their drinking and hygiene stations are colorful and durable, making hydration and sanitation fun and approachable for children.
These hydration and hygiene stations have water conserving taps that shut off when they’re not being used so that water isn’t wasted in countries where water is scarce.
There shouldn’t be any concern, however, about the Splash stations running out of water. They are built with enough water storage capacity to ensure there is enough water for everyone involved, including both kids and staff.
Splash’s number one priority is “People”. They put people first, second, and third, which allows them to focus on water systems that are efficient, easily maintained, and completely accessible.
Gallon for gallon
In the summer of 2022, we announced our “gallon for gallon” program in partnership with Splash. For every gallon of water that someone drinks from their Wisewell, we will donate a gallon of water to a child in need. This means that by practicing healthy hydration, Wisewell users are helping to end the global water crisis, one gallon at a time.
Photos by Mekbib Tadesse
How to Choose a Charity Wisely:
Splash International - Charity Navigator
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)
Splash, where the water (and everything else) is clear