drop in the bucket a non profit organization building wells and sanitation systems at schools in africa

783 million people in the world

do not have access to safe drinking water. That is roughly one-eighth of the world's population. (who)

The average person in the United States

uses between 100 and 175 gallons every day at home. (UN)

2.2 million people

in developing countries, most of them children, die every year from diseases associated with lack of access to safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene. (WHO)

More people in the world

own a cell phone than have access to a toilet. (UNICEF/WHO)

Each flush of the toilet uses

the same amount of water that one person in the Third World uses all day for washing, cleaning, cooking and drinking. (WHRNET)

An estimated 5.3 billion people,

two-thirds of the world’s population, will suffer from water shortages by 2025. (UNICEF/WHO)

More than half

of Africa's people lack access to safe drinking water (UN)

The average person

in the developing world uses 2.64 gallons of water a day. (UN)

If all the world’s water

could fit into a one gallon jug, water available for drinking would be the equivalent to only one tablespoon. (UNFPA)

It takes 5 liters of water

to make 1 liter of bottled water.

It takes 2,900 gallons of water

to produce one quarter pound hamburger (just the meat) (WHRNET)

The weight of water

that women in Asia and Africa carry on their heads is equivalent to the maximum baggage weight allowed by airlines 20kg (44 lbs) (WHRNET)

Medical research

has documented cases of permanent damage for women's health as a result of carrying water, such as chronic fatigue, spinal and pelvic deformities, and effects on reproductive health including spontaneous abortion. (UNHABITAT)

Enrollment rates for girls

have been shown to improve by over 15% when provided with clean water and toilet facility, because girls no longer have to walk miles every day to fetch water. (UN)

Lack of access to sanitation for girls

once reaching puberty becomes a central cultural and human health issue, contributing to female illiteracy and low levels of education, in turn contributing to a cycle of poor health for pregnant women and their children. (UN)

The average distance a woman walks

in Africa walks to collect water is 6 km (3.75 mi), greatly reducing the time they have for other productive work or for girls to attend school. (WHRNET)

In some parts of Africa,

women expend as much as 85% of their daily energy intake on getting water, increasing incidences of anemia and other health problems. (UNHABITAT)

Women are the primary caretakers

for those who fall ill from water-related diseases, reducing their time available for education and productive economic efforts. (UNFPA)

Women and children bear the burdens

disproportionately, often spending six hours or more each day fetching water for their families and communities. (UN)

Over 80% of the disease

in developing countries is related to poor drinking water and sanitation. (WHO)

Half of the people in the world

lack access to any kind of decent sanitation. (UNICEF)

Half of the world's hospital beds,

at any point, are occupied by people suffering from diseases associated with poor water, sanitation and hygiene. (UNDP)

Nearly one in five child deaths -

about 1.5 million each year - is due to diarrhea. (WHO/UNICEF)

Providing access to clean water

without any other medical intervention, could save 2 million lives a year.

Every day 4,500 children

under the age of 5 die from water-related illnesses. (WHO)

The water and sanitation crisis

claims more lives through disease than any war claims through guns. (UNDP)

Access to water, sanitation and hygiene

reduces the number of deaths caused by diarrheal diseases by an average of 65%. (WHO)

Approximately 443 million days

of school each year are missed due to water-related illnesses. (UNDP)

Twelve million people die each year

from lack of safe drinking water, including more than 3 million who die from waterborne diseases. (WHO/UNICEF)


Building wells is the easy part, keeping them working over time is considerably more difficult. Just like cars, computers or almost anything else that gets a lot of use, well pumps are going to eventually break. The repairs are often simple and cheap, but a repair that costs just a few dollars will leave a well broken if the villagers do not have the money.

In order to deal make sure the funds were always available, we developed a Village Savings and Loan Association program called Essential Flow Funding. This funding is put in place to ensure the community will keep the well working for years.

The VSLA program is a highly structured system of saving, borrowing and lending money generated from local contributions that provides a financial incentive for those in the community to maintain the wells. Before we move on to our next well, we train a few local workers on how to fix any problems they might encounter. These workers, like anyone, charge a small fee from the community for their service. The money to pay the workers comes directly from the community, creating a sense of ownership and independence. After the villagers have collected enough money to cover any of the inevitable repairs, any additional money collected can be lent out to community members with personal business ideas. Any loan is decided on by association members and must be used for income-generating activities. This loan is expected to be paid back with interest. Once a year the interest earned is divided among the association. This provides a fund to cover future repairs and maintenance on the wells, but also provides an opportunity for the villagers to make money and achieve financial independence for themselves with their own businesses.


As our relationship with schools in rural areas strengthened, we began to take notice that the drop-out rates for girls were much higher than boys. There are many contributing factors to this disparity, but one reason is that because girls are the primary water gatherers for their families, they miss on average about one full week of school every month.

This monthly absence soon makes the girls feel they are so behind on their work that they drop-out and deny themselves the education they so desperately need. This lead us to start forming support groups or Girls’ Clubs.The clubs are designed to encourage regular attendance and also provide health education and some groups even provide basic sanitation items like soap, shampoo, and feminine products for developing girls to keep them safe and healthy.

The combination of Girls’ Clubs coupled with a clean water well often results in the school enrollment doubling or even tripling.


Toilets can never be placed too close to a working well without the potential for groundwater contamination becoming a huge problem. But people need to be able to wash their hands after using the bathroom. This raises the question: even if people are aware of the importance of hand washing, will they be as willing to wash their hands after using the bathroom if the hand washing area is far away? We needed a solution that could place a water source next to the toilets with a replenishing supply of clean water. The problems we were facing were: no piped water, no electricity, and something that did not require expensive fuel that would need to be constantly replaced by the school.

The answer was right in front of us, kid power. By harnessing the energy of children playing, we were able to create a roundabout pump that worked in conjunction with the existing hand pump on the well (however, if there is ever a problem with the roundabout pump, the community is still able to get water from the well).

When rotated by kids doing what they do best, having fun, the roundabout pump moves water from the underground reservoir tank over to the water tower and the hand washing station next to the toilets. Because the toilets are a good distance away from the well there is no risk of groundwater contamination. Problem solved, though don’t tell the kids they are doing more than just having fun.