Just last month, I wrote a blog post about water – namely, the role our oceans play in our future. Now, as we approach World Water Day 2021, I return to discuss water with this question:

What does water mean to you?

The theme of this year’s World Water Day is “valuing water.” In the lead-up to March 22, U.N Water is asking everyone, everywhere, about what this resource means to them, individually. This could mean from a health standpoint, or a cultural, familial, religious, educational, or economic one.

Some of us are lucky – we have access to clean water every day. For us, we know that water = life, but we are able to attribute it to more than daily survival. For example, water to me means enjoying a rainy day without relying on it for farming, or worrying about flooding. Water is what I use to care for my collection of succulents. I use it to create art, brew tea and bake.

When I need water, all I need to do is turn on a tap, but all of us with this privilege must remember: water is essential to life, yet it is not equally accessible.

There are many more people around the world who struggle to access safe water. For these people, this universally irreplaceable resource means something very different.

For some, it means being sick less because new wells and hand pumps remove their reliance on contaminated water sources.

For others, it means better overall hygiene because they know how to properly wash their hands – and have the resources (soap, clean water) to do it.

For still more, it means growing reliable crops that allow them to feed their families and their communities while maintaining an income.

It can mean being able to start a business or continue your education because you no longer spend hours of your time each and every day walking miles to the nearest water source.

And now, access to clean water and soap can be the difference between contracting COVID-19 and passing it along to others, and stopping its spread once and for all.

Despite this, we are facing a growing water crisis. Clean water remains inaccessible to many (785 million people!), and our overall water supply is under threat worldwide due to climate change, increased agriculture strain and more.

This is where our Charity Alliance partner WaterAid comes in, however. WaterAid transforms lives by helping people in the world’s poorest communities gain access to safe water, toilets and hygiene education. Since 1981, they have provided clean water access to 26.4 million people.

World Water Day is of vital importance to WaterAid and their cause as we reflect on how far we’ve come and how much more we have left to do.

Raising awareness during this observance is one of the best ways you can help WaterAid bring water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services to those in need.

A girl drinks water from a tap.

The power of co-creation – Walk for Water Corporate Challenge
WaterAid understands that the world water crisis can’t be undertaken alone. They recognize the power of corporate-nonprofit partnerships in achieving their philanthropic goals, and so this year they’re holding a “Walk for Water Corporate Challenge” (learn more about co-creation).

Around the world, women and children spend 200 million hours collecting water from distant sources because they don’t have access to a well closer to home. This enormous time waste impacts their ability to go to school and develop their businesses, keeping them from achieving their full potential.

During this challenge, you’ll decide on a length of time for employees to walk or move a decided distance in solidarity with those who do it every day. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Pick a timeframe. This challenge doesn’t have a set timeframe, so choose what works best for your employees. It could be a week, two weeks or a month.
  2. Pick a distance. There is also no set distance, so pick your own! Consider that 3.5 miles is the average distance that women and girls in developing countries walk to get water according to USAID.
  3. Incentivize through pledge matching. Offering a match will help encourage people to participate by allowing them to make a larger impact.
  4. Communicate and educate. Keep up with internal communications throughout the campaign. Share facts about the water crisis and how they intersect with your company’s values and social impact goals. Don’t forget to give campaign updates!

    a. Need help with your communication plan? WaterAid is working with Charity Miles to set up, co-brand and develop logistics and internal communications around the event. Reach out for more information.

  5. Follow your plan. Once you settle on a plan, don’t deviate from it. This means no last-minute changes about timing, distance, etc. Make sure you keep everything clear and consistent to avoid confusion and encourage participation.
  6. Tally the results and announce the totals. Don’t let the campaign just disappear at the end of your timeframe, keep up that communication by rounding it off with an announcement about the results. Maybe even host a virtual celebration and invite WaterAid to speak to your staff about the impact they made by working together.

Don’t forget to be considerate of your employees’ time and abilities. Involve them in the process by selecting ambassadors to work alongside executive leadership on selecting a timeframe and distance that works for everyone and developing an internal communications plan. For those who are able, encourage them to mix things up a bit and bring a bucket of water along with them on their walk to truly recreate the daily hike that so many have to endure just to have water.

In order to maintain safety standards, this event can be completed outdoors, and individually or in small groups within people’s COVID-19 bubble. That way, everyone can participate without fear of spreading the coronavirus.

Other ways to get involved
Not a corporation? No problem – there are many virtual ways that you can get involved, whether you’re a nonprofit, a group or an individual.

  • More than 50% of health care centers in developing countries don’t have running water. Help WaterAid with their winter campaign and provide soap, handwashing stations and training to help battle the coronavirus.
  • Help end the water crisis by supporting WaterAid’s work as well as the efforts of other Charity Alliance partners through our Clean Water High Impact Fund.
  • What is your water footprint? Find out using this water calculator and then pledge to reduce it. This is an opportunity for all, but companies can also make this a volunteer event and offer a pledge match to employees who participate.
  • What does water mean to you? Join the conversation online and share your stories, thoughts and feelings about water with U.N. Water using #WorldWaterDay and #Water2Me.
  • Knowledge is power Learn about SDG #6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. Then tell everyone about it!

Discover even more ways to get involved on the WaterAid website. For more information on partnering with WaterAid, reach out to us.

Without water, there will be no future. What will you do to protect it? Join the fight to increase access to this important resource this World Water Day.