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Frequently Asked Questions

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If you have any questions about WaterAid and our work, this page can help you! Simply select one of the following categories and click on a question to view the answer.

Our Work

Does WaterAid carry out emergency work?

WaterAid is primarily a development organization, working with communities on long-term solutions to water and sanitation problems. However, in the places where we work, we endeavor to respond to natural disasters and other emergencies where we can make a useful contribution, especially in protecting or restoring vital water and sanitation services for poor people. We also help communities in disaster-prone regions such as low-lying coastal areas of Bangladesh to prepare for extreme weather events by constructing resilient water and sanitation facilities, such as latrines above ground level that can better withstand flooding. 

Why do you work where you do?

The countries where we work are selected based on the following criteria:

  • There is potential for WaterAid’s work to be effective and have a long-term positive impact.
  • The country lies at the lower end of the United Nations Development Program Human Development Index, or has pockets of extreme poverty, and a significant part of the population in the country lacks access to water and sanitation.
  • There is an opportunity for WaterAid’s work to complement the work of others.
  • There is potential for us to influence other organizations to improve access to safe water and sanitation.
  • There is an opportunity for us to widen our experience and knowledge, increasing our credibility and ability to influence global change.

There are other countries which need water and sanitation too. Why doesn't WaterAid work there?

We have plans for significant further expansion over the next five years. We aim to be working in a total of 30 countries by 2015.

The global water and sanitation problem is so vast that we are unable to reach everyone who needs support. However, through our global advocacy work we aim to change policies and practices around the world that impact upon people's access to water and sanitation.

Does WaterAid work with other organizations?

We are continuously looking for ways to work in partnership with others so that our work will have as much impact as possible. We work with national and local governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), networks, research and academic institutions and community-based organizations, among others. We work with them to increase their effectiveness in service delivery and in advocacy.

Local governments in many of the countries in which we work have been given the responsibility, but not the skills or resources, to develop water and sanitation services in their regions, so we plan to work more closely with them in the coming years to develop their capacity to carry out their work effectively.

We also work with other international NGOs, research institutes and alliances on our reports and advocacy work – both in the countries where we work and internationally.

We are a founding member of the End Water Poverty campaign, a coalition of like-minded organizations calling for water and sanitation for all.

Why don't you merge with all the other non-profit organizations that work in your area?

We work specifically on improving poor people's access to water, hygiene and sanitation. However, the scale of the problem is vast and to achieve our vision of a world where everyone has access to these basic needs we are continuously seeking ways of working in partnership with others so that our work has as much impact as possible.

We are increasingly conscious of the need to consider any possible risks of duplication of effort. This is why we work with local organizations in the countries where we work, through the structure put in place by the country governments. As the responsibility for water and sanitation is more often falling to local government we are also working with them to develop their capacity to carry out their work effectively.

In many countries we help the local government to map the water resources that are available and see which are working. This means any future work can be planned to mend broken facilities (which is cheaper than building new ones) and reach those most in need.

We also work with other international NGOs on our campaigns, reports and advocacy work - both in the countries where we work and internationally. For example we are a founding member of End Water Poverty, a coalition of like-minded organizations calling on water and sanitation for all.

Do you carry out work with governments?

WaterAid believes that all governments have a responsibility to ensure there is adequate water and sanitation provision for their citizens. However, in many of the countries where we work there is often a lack of capacity and funds to make this happen. WaterAid therefore works with governments, and campaigns nationally and internationally, to help ensure that the world's poorest people gain access to these basic needs.
 

For example in some countries we map the location of existing water and sanitation facilities to see where facilities are required so that any new work reaches the people who are most in need. We then work with local governments to build their capacity to deliver on their responsibilities to provide these essential services.

We receive funding from donor governments including the US and British governments. We also work closely with many local government departments, which have been given the responsibility, but often not the resources or training, to carry out water and sanitation work in their area.

WaterAid also represents non-governmental organizations on the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, one of the main international groupings of government and professional people working in the global drinking water sector.

In democratic countries, why don't people demand better services from their government?

Often, poor communities are marginalized and not aware of their entitlements to basic services. We work with communities to increase their awareness of rights and facilitate dialogue with the government agencies responsible for delivering it.

As water is a human right, how does WaterAid use this to advocate for water for all?

We lobbied to establish the right to water, which was declared by the UN in 2002, and we now work to help the world's poorest people achieve that right in the following ways:

  • Helping our partner organizations to promote the right to water and petition their governments to allocate further resources to these basic services through our Citizens' Action project.
  • Defending the right to water to governments who question whether there is sufficient mandate for water to be viewed as a right.
  • Working with other rights organizations to develop education and understanding about the right to water.

Why do communities have to contribute to their projects?

Community involvement is vital to the success of our projects. In places where wells or latrines have been built without community involvement they will often fall into disrepair as nobody maintains the services or fixes them when they break.

Our projects rely on community ownership. In the early stages we discuss problems and solutions with communities so that they fully understand the links between water, sanitation and hygiene and are motivated to change their environment themselves.

We work with partners to help communities develop the skills to set up, operate and maintain their own water and sanitation facilities and to learn about good hygiene. In this way, communities themselves own the projects and will use them properly and maintain them long into the future.

To ensure that projects operate effectively, community members are often asked to contribute by making regular small payments or contributing at the start of the project. When people are unable to pay they can contribute labor or materials instead, or are subsidized by others. These contributions pay for the set up costs and maintenance of projects, and often the salaries of local staff, who keep the facilities in good working order.

Often these contributions are significantly less than the communities were paying already for their water, particularly from expensive vendors in urban areas or for medicines for treating the sick. Communities with access to water and sanitation services often report being better off. Without spending hours each day collecting water, women can carry out other work and generate an income and children can go to school.

Isn't the real problem population growth?

The world’s population is likely to reach nine billion by 2050, and most of this growth will take place in the developing world. Every human being has a right to life and a right to development. There are enough resources in the world for everyone if they are used efficiently and shared equitably. However, uneven distribution of resources and varying rates of population growth mean that in some areas the rate at which renewable water resources are being consumed threatens to exceed the rate at which they can be recharged and reused. The central challenge therefore is not about controlling population growth, but rather promoting social, economic and technological developments necessary to ensure efficient and equitable resource use.

High birth rates can be a symptom of a lack of women’s empowerment. This can be the case if they are not able to choose how many children they have, due, for example, to a lack of education or lack of access to contraceptives. High birth rates can also be a symptom of poverty and underdevelopment. Where child mortality is very high people tend to have more children. Poor households also tend to have more children in order help grow food and earn money for the family.

Improving women’s rights and economic development is among the most important factors leading to a reduction in population growth. Improved access to water and sanitation has been shown to improve girls’ school attendance, helping to empower women, and to free up time for economic activities. The demographic transition model shows how falls in birth rates lagged behind falls in death rates following industrialization in the USA, Europe and Japan. If the same proves true for developing countries, we can expect a delay of several years before the impact of economic development is seen in terms of reduced population growth.

We believe that in the context of the sharing of water resources, everyone has a right of access to safe and affordable drinking water and basic sanitation. All countries must have a national water resource management plan to enable appropriate allocation of water resources, manage competing claims and ensure that everyone has their basic entitlement to drinking water secured.

Does WaterAid have an environment policy?

The climate is a fundamental driver of the water cycle and as such any climate change will not only determine how much, or indeed how little, water is available globally but will also impact the quality of this water. Climate change can also seriously affect the sustainability of sanitation facilities due to flooding, cyclones and other extreme weather systems.

To support our global vision we seek to minimize the environmental impact of all our activities and are committed to working on the following key ethical, environmental and sustainable principles:

  • To be compliant with all environmental legislation
  • To continuously review, improve and challenge our wider environmental performance
  • To effectively manage our use of natural resources
  • To effectively manage all waste
  • To actively promote a wider understanding of environmental issues throughout all areas of the organization including our staff, volunteers, supporters and suppliers
  • In particular we will aim to:
    • Reduce our carbon footprint and environmental impact in terms of our travel policies
    • Reduce our environmental impact when producing and distributing corporate literature and publications by using sustainable practices, products, materials and energy wherever possible.
    • Reduce and control our waste on the principle of ‘Reduce, Reuse and Recycle Energy’, using energy supplies from renewable sources and energy-efficient technologies and equipment where possible.
    • Work with suppliers, contractors and partners who comply with our commitment to improve our environmental performance.
    • Ensure that all our employees and those who work on our behalf understand our commitment to environmental issues and are familiar with our policies.

    We are committed to implementing an ongoing system of environmental management, sustainability and improvements, which will enable us to set realistic targets that we can measure and monitor within agreed timeframes and publish our success annually.

Can’t people just dig their own wells? Or dig a hole for a toilet? 

Many people already do. Hand dug wells, for instance, are the most common way people in developing countries access water. Going to the toilet in the open is also extremely common. But both of these practices are unsafe, directly leading to the spread of deadly diseases. WaterAid’s partners work with communities to build simple, long-term solutions, like safely lined and capped wells and ventilated pit latrines. These are far safer and help protect people’s health, allowing people to break out of the cycle of poverty. Read more about our technologies.

Why don’t they move nearer the water source?

Natural sources of water are rarely safe. When open to nature they can be contaminated with household and industrial waste, animal faeces, parasites and waterborne diseases like cholera. They are also unreliable, drying up or running out. This means finding a new source that could be many miles away. A community cannot move every time this happens. It is therefore much better and safer to create a water facility that is local, and uses water that needs only minimal filtering, like groundwater, rainwater, or similar. 

Why don’t they boil the water?

There are some significant problems with this as a long-term solution. For instance, sourcing a constant supply of fuel to boil water can be very difficult or expensive. Also, this extra need to constantly burn fossil fuels often leads to higher rates of respiratory conditions. Boiling the water also does nothing to stop millions of women and children having to walk miles for their water every day, leaving no time for other work, education or Nobody should be forced to live this way. As a long term solution, it is therefore fairer and cheaper in every way to create a water supply that is close by and safe at its source.

Getting involved

How can I raise money for WaterAid?

There are many ways to raise funds for WaterAid. As an individual you can:

  • Make an online donation: in your own name, in memory of a loved one, or in honor of someone you know.
  • Make a bequest to WaterAid.
  • Find out if your employer offers a matching gift program – if so, make a donation through this program to raise more funds for WaterAid.
  • Set up a personal fundraising page where people can make donations to WaterAid on your behalf if you are participating in a sponsored event or as an alternative to birthday, holiday or wedding gifts.
  • Organize a fundraising event at your school, place of work or with your local group.
  • Encourage all your friends, family, coworkers and neighbors to support WaterAid too.
  • Sign up for our enewsletter and forward it on to spread the word.
 

My company would like to support you. How can we get involved?

Our corporate relationships are valuable to us and there are many ways in which your company can work in partnership with us, from employee giving programs that benefit both companies and staff to corporate gifts, special events and long-term partnerships. Find out more about how your company and WaterAid can work together.

Can I visit your projects overseas?

We greatly appreciate the support we receive from many thousands of individuals, groups and corporations. However, because so many people help fund our work we don't encourage supporters to visit our projects overseas. Most of our projects are in remote areas, so visiting requires help from the WaterAid country office and from our local partners who help manage the project. In many areas communications networks are very limited and coordinating visits takes a great deal of time. This takes up valuable time and resources which could be uses to help more people gain access to safe water and sanitation.

Can I volunteer to help with projects overseas?

We generally don't send volunteers overseas. Day to day project work is carried out by organizations based in the countries where we work. These organizations mostly employ local members of staff, who work very closely with communities to ensure that they are actively involved in the planning, building and maintenance of our projects. Local participation is vital to ensure the sustainability of water and sanitation projects, and also helps the future development of a country.

Can I give you tools to help in the construction of projects?

The expense and administration involved in shipping materials to developing countries means than in most cases it is not cost-effective for us to receive gifts in kind for use in our country programs. We also believe in sourcing as much hardware as possible from local areas, which gives local economies a much needed boost, saves on unnecessary air miles, helps develop the sense of local ownership of projects, means there is more likely to be local expertise in repairing those items and makes spare parts easier to source.

However, other gifts in kind such as certain computer equipment and some vehicles can be a valuable gift.

Other gifts in kind we would welcome include venues for events, meeting room spaces, and gifts that we may be able to use as auction items.

Can I volunteer for WaterAid in the USA?

We are often looking for volunteers to help us in the USA, especially at our offices in New York and Washington, DC. Giving the gift of your time, energy and skills makes a valuable contribution towards our work. Voluntary positions are varied, but mostly focus on offering regular administrative support in our office. Volunteering for a nonprofit like WaterAid can be an ideal way to gain invaluable first hand knowledge and experience of working in the sector.

Find out about our current volunteering opportunities.

Making a donation

How do I make a donation to WaterAid using my credit or debit card?

WaterAid America has an easy to use, secure online giving facility where you can make one-time or recurring donations using your Visa, American Express or Mastercard. To make your gift, simply visit our donate page. The page offers you the option of making your gift in honor or in memory of someone. We will send an acknowledgment of your gift to whomever you request. Alternatively, you can make a credit or debit card over the phone by calling us at 212-683-0430 between 9a.m. and 5p.m. ET Monday through Friday.

How else can I donate to WaterAid?

If you would prefer to mail us your check, money order or credit card details, simply download, print and complete this form and mail it to: WaterAid America, 233 Broadway, Suite 2705, New York, NY 10279. Other options for supporting WaterAid include:

  • Make a bequest to WaterAid.
  • Find out if your employer offers a matching gift program – if so, make a donation through this program to raise more funds for WaterAid.
  • Set up a personal fundraising page where people can make donations to WaterAid on your behalf if you are participating in a sponsored event or as an alternative to birthday, holiday or wedding gifts.
  • Organize a fundraising event at your school, place of work or with your local group.
  • Encourage all your friends, family, coworkers and neighbors to support WaterAid too.

Is my gift tax-deductible?

WaterAid America is a nonprofit organization and contributions are fully tax-deductible under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

How do I make a bequest gift to WaterAid?

Bequests are a wonderful way to make an impact on the work of WaterAid America and leave a meaningful legacy. A gift through your will or living trust is fully deductible from your estate and can significantly reduce taxes on the balance of your estate. If you choose to name WaterAid in your will, the suggested language is:

I give and bequeath to WaterAid America, 233 Broadway, New York, NY 10279, a New York not-for-profit organization, the sum of $____ (or ___ percent of my residuary estate) for such purposes as the Board of Directors of WaterAid America shall determine to be in the best interest of the organization.

Opting to make a residuary bequest is particularly valuable to us, as it generally increases in value over time, as opposed to an exact figure (specific bequest), which usually erodes over time due to inflation. No matter how you choose to give, please ask a legal professional to check your Will to ensure it is valid and give you peace of mind. We are very thankful for your support and would appreciate knowing if you include WaterAid America in your estate plans so that we may acknowledge your commitment.

Can I buy a well or fund a specific project?

Rather than asking supporters to fund individual items, we prefer to direct funds to our work in general. Unrestricted funds allow us to respond quickly when situations change, and give us the security to plan future projects. We do however give cost examples on our website to show a range of items that your funds might be used for. Larger donations can be linked to a particular country program or project. Once the donation has been linked, we can provide updates showing how the money has been used. For further information please contact us.

Can you put a plaque on a well in recognition of our support?

As a rule, we do not allow signs from our supporters at our project sites. WaterAid involves the community at all stages of the project to help ensure the community feels ownership of the project and assumes the responsibility for actively maintaining the facilities long after WaterAid and our project partners have left the area. We feel this sense of community ownership would be undermined by displaying supporters' names on the wells or other items of hardware.

Who can I contact with any other queries about donating to WaterAid?

Please call us on +1 212 683 0430 with any questions or queries. Lines are open 9a.m. to 5.00p.m. ET, Monday through Friday. Or email us at inquiries@wateraidamerica.org

Expenditure

How much of my donation goes to the cause?

WaterAid aims to put as much of your contribution as possible to work helping people in need. WaterAid America works hard to keep our overhead as low as possible and generate a strong return on investments made in marketing and fundraising. Of every $1 WaterAid America spent in 2013/14, 80% went to programs, 10% was spent on fundraising and 10% on management and general. The money spent on management, fundraising and marketing is an essential investment to guarantee that we can secure funding for our vital work in the future and that we have the necessary planning and project management systems in place to ensure we are efficiently run in an accountable manner.

How do you ensure my money is spent properly overseas?

We have a rigorous system of monitoring to support our country offices and partners implementing our project work. Financial reports are sent to the managing member country on a monthly basis. We also have dedicated Partner Monitoring Finance Officers in most countries who check the finances of the partner organizations, and all our offices have well qualified and trained finance staff.

In addition to this we have an internal audit function which carries out comprehensive audits for the country programs and reports their findings to the Audit Committee. Each country program also has an annual external audit by an independent firm of accountants.