How much does it cost to provide me with drinkable water? I could purchase my water in the form of Voss mineral water, my daily drinking needs would be met by three 1-liter bottles at $5.20 each. I am a little too frugal for all that though so I drink Sydney’s own tap water (good enough to bottle) instead, at $0.003 a litre. So I feel like I’m getting a great deal.

1 in 3

Meanwhile, billions of people around the world are continuing to suffer from poor access to water, sanitation and hygiene, according to a new report by UNICEF and the World Health Organization. Some 2.2 billion people around the world do not have safely managed drinking water services, 4.2 billion people do not have safely managed sanitation services, and 3 billion lack basic hand-washing facilities. Think about how vital washing your hands has become for two ‘happy birthdays’ in recent months. In short, according to UNICEF and WHO, 1 in 3 people globally do not have access to safe drinking water and or sanitation.

WHAT HAS WATER DONE FOR ME LATELY?

Clean water is perhaps the single greatest vehicle for social and economic change there is. Water changes everything. Here are just a couple of our favourites:

HEALTH
Diseases from dirty water kills more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. 43% of those deaths are children under five years old. Access to clean water and basic sanitation can save around 16,000 lives every week. 16,000 lives that would otherwise have been lost, every single week, of every single month, of every single year. 16,000 deaths is more deaths than peak Covid. Covid will cost the world an estimated $2.2 Trillion in 2020 alone according to Bloomberg, so it seems we are willing to put a dollar value on saving western lives.

TIME
In Africa alone, women spend 40 billion hours a year walking for water.
Access to clean water gives communities more time to grow food, earn an income, and go to school — all of which fight poverty.

EDUCATION
Clean water helps keep kids in school, especially girls.
Less time collecting water means more time in class. Clean water and proper toilets at school means teenage girls don’t have to stay home for a week out of every month.

EMPOWERMENT OF WOMEN
Women are responsible for 72% of the water collected in Sub-Saharan Africa.
When a community gets water, women and girls get their lives back. They start businesses, improve their homes, and take charge of their own futures as well as the futures of their families and villages. Everyone who has the data and a stake in this agrees, that women are the key to transforming the developing world.

SOUNDS EXPENSIVE THOUGH RIGHT?

Providing water in different countries carries a different cost. There are lots of factors in this such as legislation, taxes, minimum wages, resource costs etc. The optimistic estimates are that a donation of US$100 will help almost 23 people drink clean water / go to the bathroom in dignity for a whole year (all while being able to wash their hands). Helping a single person and potentially saving a life costs US$4.37, less than a single bottle of Voss!

Can we put a value on human life? Apparently it's about $4.37.

Can we put a value on human life? Apparently it’s about $4.37. Thats coffee money. Now… most of you aren’t Christian till you have your morning coffee, noted, us too. And that coffee is probably also saving lives, but only in a ‘haha’, witty banter way. We are talking actual, life saving, taken for granted, $0.003 a litre from the tap in Sydney (good enough to bottle) water. Compare this to providing clean drinking water and a toilet that won’t kill you in Sydney Australia. Here it will cost about AUD$230. US$4.37 is pretty much the best value gift you will ever give. It means a parent not losing their children, children not losing parents, kids getting educated and women becoming ferocious society transformers. Thats an incredible gift!

THIS IS A SOLVABLE PROBLEM

Now, US$4.37 takes the optimistic view, and doesn’t really account for corruption, paying better than exploitation wages etc. so lets double it to account for corruption and lets double it again so we can pay local contractors a wage that means their families get to celebrate Christmas this year. That puts us at around $18 per person per year. Thats still an incredible deal to save 16,000 lives a week and less then 10% of what it costs to give me delicious water from a tap whenever I want it. Especially when you consider Americans spend $11.8 Billion a year on bottled water alone. There is a reason we note that stat about Americans and bottled water, its to set you, the reader up for this stat to get a ‘gasp’.

Didn't someone important to our faith once remark "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink."

– (John 7:37)

So get gasp ready… The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates the total annual cost of meeting the Millennium Development Goal target for water and sanitation at just over US$9.5 billion. $2.3 Billion less than the USA spends on bottled water. Gasp. This is a solvable problem for the church who collectively give $2.2 trillion a year. What if we adopted the posture “Until no one dies from dirty water”? Didn’t someone important to our faith once remark “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink” (John 7:37). It really feels like we should own this right?

THE VIRTUOUS CYCLE

It turns out that solving this problem creates a virtuous cycle that liberates nascent wealth within countries, as both the human and physical resources become more productive. For every $1 (USD) invested in safe drinking water and sanitation, the World Health Organization estimates returns of $3-34 USD through increased education, productivity, decreased health costs and mitigating lost days of productivity due to illness. The overall economic loss in Africa alone due to lack of access to safe water and basic sanitation is estimated at USD 28.4 billion a year. Simply solving this problem for Africa covers the cost of solving it by 3 times. This is a solid investment; access to clean water is perhaps the single most powerful tool for sparking economic growth that humanity has ever known.

There is only one question that remains, once we have solved this with a rounding error on the US$2.2 trillion that Christians give each year, what are we going to do tomorrow?

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