Photo: Paul Jeffrey/CWS

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

East Africa

The CWS Water for Life program has had transformative impacts in East Africa. Water for Life has benefitted 182 communities across the drylands of Kenya -- Kitui, West Pokot, Baringo and Turkana counties – and rural households in Gairo and Ulyankulu, Tanzania. CWS and partners work with communities to identify innovative, cost-effective and environmentally sound water system improvements, including sand dams, boreholes, weirs and rock catchments. Participating communities contribute their skills and locally available materials, which fosters local ownership, improves sustainability and reduces costs. Read an evaluation of our program from 2008-2012.

Photo: Mbangulo community, Kitui-Kenya


For some families in Cambodia, solving health related problems was as simple as using water from a biosand filter constructed by villagers participating in a CWS Water, Sanitation and Hygiene training project, and storing drinking water in covered containers. The simple solutions are having a major impact on village health as families find themselves spending less time taking their children to the hospital and less money on medicines as sickness from water-borne disease decreases.

Photo: Annie Griffiths/Ripple Effect Images


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