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Project Safewater aims to bring clean, potable water to the billions around the world who lack it — the first step involves partnering with local communities.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 2.1 billion people around the world lack access to safe, clean water — and more than twice as many lack proper sanitation.

“Lack of access to clean water has a huge impact on people’s health and livelihood,” says Marybeth Thorsgaard, vice president of communications at Pentair, a water treatment company, and president of the Pentair Foundation. “Sick people can’t go to school or work. And since it often falls to women and children to retrieve water for their family — sometimes having to walk long distances — the negative impact affects them at a disproportionate rate.”

Improving access

The Pentair Foundation, funded by Pentair, launched Project Safewater in 2007, collaborating with Water Mission in Colón, Honduras to bring more than 200 safe water stations to a community of 300,000 people.

“Helping to bring safer water to the world is at the heart of the Pentair Foundation’s mission,” Thorsgaard points out. 

“With the Pentair Foundation, we have been able to provide thousands in Honduras with safe water, sanitation, and hygiene training,” says George C. Greene, IV, president of Water Mission.  “As a result, individuals and families have experienced significant improvements in their health.” In fact, a long term study demonstrated the project reduced instances of waterborne diseases by 80 percent.

The success in Colón led to the project’s expansion into other areas of Honduras as well as projects in India and Kenya.

Sustainable solutions

Thorsgaard stresses the importance of sustainability in these projects.

“The work of Project Safewater is holistic in nature and it includes training the community to run the water systems, which in turn creates local micro-enterprise opportunities that help sustain these initiatives,” she says.

Part of that sustainability is freely sharing Pentair’s experience with other organizations. “The problem is enormous,” she says. “It will take more than one company to solve this.”

Jeff Somers, [email protected]

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