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Rotary and Water

The challenge

About 97 percent of the world’s water are oceans -- and saline. More than 2 percent of the rest of the water is frozen in icebergs and glaciers, leaving less than 1 percent of all water available for human use. If it were possible to fit all the water on Earth into a gallon (4 liter) jug, the relative quantity of water available would be about one tablespoon (4 fluid drams).

Fresh drinking water and water for food production and waste disposal are essential and increasingly threatened. Population growth and mega cities have increased demand six times since the beginning of the 1900’s. Pollution contaminates available supplies. Today, almost half of the world’s countries have severe water problems.

Rotary Solutions

Recognizing the vital importance of safe water, Rotary International policy encourages all Rotary districts and clubs to support efforts that help people to provide themselves with safe water. The safe water projects are to be reasonably close to homes using simple sustainable technology. This policy is reflected in projects of all sizes in all parts of the world.

Indicative of Rotary activity are the number of Matching Grants awarded by The Rotary Foundation for water-related projects. The trustees of The Rotary Foundation have made clean water as one of three priorities for major Health, Hunger and Humanity (3-H) Grants.

In recognition of Rotary’s work to provide safe water in communities around the world, the International Water Resources Association presented the 1997 Crystal Drop Award to Rotary International. Rotary was cited for its projects in Senegal, Haiti and Thailand. The Rotary Foundation awards Matching Grants to projects coordinated by Rotary clubs throughout the world for wells, water tanks, school or hospital water systems, and lavatories.

Multi-Continental Efforts

The Rotary Safe Water Project has resulted in the construction of 710 wells --565 in India and 145 in Guatemala. The project was initiated by three Rotary International Directors from India, Guatemala, and the United States, to increase Rotary awareness and support for providing safe water to communities in developing nations.

African Solutions

Supported by a $300,000 Rotary Foundation grant, The Rotary clubs of Massachusetts, USA, and Kisumu, Kenya, sponsored a project to develop a supply of clean drinking water for some 500 families in Kenya. The project is designed to create a system of village level water management cooperatives, with trained participants including school and church leaders.

A Senegalese Rotary member created a device which forces tree roots to tap water well below the saline surface of the Sahel. Supported by French Rotary clubs, the device is being used to fight desertification throughout Senegal.