It happened when I was walking through a Habitat for Humanity village in rural Ethiopia. There was a little pumping well for the neighborhood of simple and sturdy homes. It had a fence around it made of upcycled plastic tubing lashed together, situating the well in a kind of courtyard.

It was almost like a monument, with the pump set in concrete to make it a more permanent structure. The well likely descended 15 meters down, per the common water table in that area, to fresh, clean, life-giving water. Since we were there to also try to build wells, I was drawn to this one in study and admiration.

When I got closer, what I found surprised me. There was a plaque on the well, an inscription that said it was a gift from the Relief Society of a ward somewhere in the states. I wish I had my camera that day so I could have taken a photo and tracked down the women behind this project. But the memory of that well has remained with me nonetheless. There it was, years after it had been installed, quietly continuing its service providing potable water to a community, and I wondered whether the current Relief Society of that same ward had any idea about its existence.

The World Is Thirsty For Clean Water

Water is a resource, especially where access to safe drinking water is scarce, more precious than gold. And it’s this access that is often not just a consequence of nature; it’s part of a cycle of class, poverty, discrimination, and political stratification. This means lacking clean water for much of the world is a manmade problem much of the time. But it also means it can have a manmade solution.

Right now, more than 1.8 billion people—that’s over 20% of the world’s population—are drinking unsafe water, and that number grows when we consider the related effects of bad water, like sanitation, hygiene and the hours and hours it takes people—women, mostly—just to get enough for a few days.

Access to clean water has the single greatest impact to global poverty. In many places, however, creating a lasting solution can come at a high price. Drilling and concrete can cost a lot of money. Wells don’t last forever, and rains don’t always come.

We Can Be Part Of The Solution

The solutions for clean water are as diverse and creative as the problems are unique to each region in need. As we follow the reminder Christ gave in Matthew 25:35 when he said, “I was thirsty and ye gave me drink,” about how to apply that holy gratitude to the very least of these, it’s a natural consequence to reach out beyond our own conveniences and lend a helping hand to the problems that plague our world.

When it comes to water, supporting organizations like charity: water or water.org are great places to start, and to donate to, especially because they help educate donors on the water crisis and invite all of us to learn more as well as give.

Locally, we can also be more conscious of where we spend our money when we buy something as simple as bottled water. Look for labeling that may indicate that a portion of the profit of the sale of that water goes toward water and sanitation needs and organizations.

For those in Utah, local bottled water company, People Water can be found in a growing number of places throughout the state. People Water, according to their website, is a “for-profit, cause-based business, that is committed to alleviating the global water crisis” And the brand’s “Drop for Drop” initiative commits funds to dig or repair wells around the world, just like that one I saw in Ethiopia. 

Light The World, The Entire World

There are more ideas at Mormon.org and you can also check out JustServe to see what local projects there might be (or you can organize one) for clean water or access to clean water in your area, either for your area, or for somewhere far away.

Everyone on this earth is a child of God. All are alike unto Him, and our efforts to help can be far reaching whether we are helping a neighbor next door or a village across the world.  

Giving pure water is an expression, an extension, of pure religion, and it’s a holy endeavor that requires our sacrifice and our time. As you think of ways to #LightTheWorld, consider giving drink to those who thirst, for therein we please our Lord.