Empower 25 million people with safe water and sanitation Highly Ranked

Lead Organization


Kansas City, Missouri, United States


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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

Today, 780 million people have no safe water source within 30 minutes of home. Two billion lack even a basic toilet. The women and girls who spend their days collecting water have little time for work or school. And contaminated water can be a death sentence: water-borne diseases kill more people than malaria, measles, and HIV/AIDS – combined.Many people living in poverty want to invest in solving this problem, but they lack adequate savings and cannot get an affordable loan. Water.org changes that. We work with local financial institutions and other partners to provide microloans that fund access to water and sanitation systems.Twenty-one million people have gained access through these loans, setting in motion a virtuous cycle of improved health, economic opportunity, gender equity. Though more than half the people we serve live on less than $2/day, 99% repay their loans. The solution is therefore sustainable—and significantly scalable.

Problem Statement

Too many people still live without water and sanitation access. This problem disproportionately affects women and girls. Collecting water keeps girls from school and women from work, limiting opportunities for education and economic independence. Every day, women spend 200 million hours collecting water.Why does such a devastating crisis persist? A lack of capital to solve it. And because conventional approaches favor aid. The World Bank projects a financing shortfall for water and sanitation development of $86 billion every year between now and 2030 - the world needs four times the money it currently applies to the problem. Charity alone will never be enough.We can make up that shortfall by correcting a key market failure.People living in poverty pay significantly for their lack of access, often 10-15 times more per liter for water than middle-class households with water connections.In addition to the hard costs of accessing water from sources outside the home, families without household connections pay in other ways – with their time, increased healthcare costs and missed opportunity. These coping-costs result in $260 billion lost globally.The most powerful way to make measurable change is to empower households to redirect these coping-costs towards a permanent solution. These families can pay; they simply lack the savings up-front. Correcting this market failure provides families an opportunity to invest in water utility connections, rainwater collection systems, or latrines and toilets. At scale, this solution creates an enduring capitalmarket that helps close the global water and sanitation financing gap.

Solution Overview

When we first recognized the power of microloans to help end the water crisis, we partnered with microfinance institutions that were already lending within impoverished communities and worked with them to research and develop water and sanitation loan products. Through this program, WaterCredit, a small philanthropic investment helped create a market that would continue to help people without the need for continued philanthropy.Today, we are both working with individual microlenders and collaborating with influential institutions - financial institution associations, development banks, utilities, and iNGO consortia—institutions that, through their networks, can extend and expand financing. We are also influencing policies and practices that attract more capital to water and sanitation finance.With this approach, we will reach 25 million people in India, Indonesia, and the Philippines over five years – and the solution will be sustained well beyond that time frame.We measure progress through our established impact measurement framework, including key performance indicators: number of people reached, amount of capital mobilized, client repayment rates, and progress toward policy and practice shifts. Our framework includes baseline and end line studies and monthly program monitoring via self-reporting from partners and on-site interviews with clients.Our approach will both serve long-term needs of households at the base of the economic pyramid and help fix an insufficient financing system by tapping capital markets. In 2018 alone, our partners mobilized $1B in loans. We project catalyzing $4B over these five years; that’s more than all foundation grants for water and sanitation from 2006-present.

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Project Funders

  • Caterpillar Foundation 2008 - 2019
  • IKEA Foundation 2012 - 2019
  • Bank of America Foundation 2011 - 2019

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