Sustainable and safe water. It makes a world of difference.

Water – safe and accessible – is at the very heart of a community's ability to thrive. Without the precious resource crops wilt, animals die, people suffer and diseases spread. Still, some 783 million people throughout the world have little or no access to clean water and nearly 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation.

Against those odds, CWS joins communities to help build and maintain a variety of water systems – from sand dams to wells to reservoirs – that draw upon rainwater or underground sources.

Food security and nutrition improve when clean, stable water sources help diversify crops. Health improves because clean water means less disease. Displacement decreases as people no longer have to abandon their communities because of the lack of drinking water. And ultimately, standards of living rise because people spend less time searching for water and more time on other activities, such as getting an education or earning a living.

Our impact

Sustainable Access to Water and Sanitation

Access to safe drinking water, adequate sanitation and basic hygiene are human rights. For generations, a lack of water and sanitation has profoundly compromised subsistence farmers and herders in the remote drylands areas of East Africa. This exposes vulnerable men, women and children to vicious cycles of famine, poverty, conflict and dependence on humanitarian assistance.

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Accelerating Community Development in the South American Gran Chaco

The CWS Gran Chaco program is a long-term, cross-border initiative that strengthens local ecumenical partnerships and grassroots efforts to build the skills and capacity of indigenous peoples – especially women – to advocate effectively for their rights to land, water, education, health, food and a life free from violence.

In response to chronic drought, our team supports community-led advocacy to accelerate government investment in small-scale water solutions, particularly family and community rainwater harvesting systems. Participating communities are trained by CWS partners Fundapaz, CERDET and JUM to use participatory mapping and geographic information system tools as part of their advocacy. These groups succeeded in many of their petitions to municipal and state authorities and made community decisions that were better informed about land and natural resource use and management.

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Getting water for daily living is a challenge in many communities whose residents often have to walk miles in search of fresh water. In the village of Biloto, the long walk has been shortened considerably because of construction of a close-by reservoir. A village committee developed the plan to build and maintain the reservoir and CWS provided the necessary sand, cement and tools. The result: a locally-managed source of water for consumption, personal hygiene, livestock and agriculture.

Photo: Lisa Hayes/CWS


Preventable disease is down and awareness of the value of good hygiene is up for people living in Vietnam’s Muong Te and Nam Cau villages. A CWS program featuring activities aimed at raising villagers’ awareness of and access to good health practices, including the building and use of latrines and regular hand washing has increased local knowledge about good hygiene practices and is helping to prevent the spread of disease.

Photo: Annie Griffiths/Ripple Effect Images


With safe, accessible water in short supply in Myine Thar Yar village in Kayin State, Myanmar, the construction of a locally-managed water supply system that uses gravity to move water downhill to the village has had a huge impact on life here and in and surrounding villages. “I feel secure now when taking a bath,” says village resident Cho. “The water is clean and good for health and each household has an equal and fair share of water.”

Photo: Yoko Ito/CWS