Images: Waves For Water / Photo by Ethan Lovell

Christian Driggs stands on a dirt road surrounded by darkness, lit up only from the occasional passing headlights and burst of lightning in the night sky. When visible, I see the leading team member wipe sweat from his brow. The Waves for Water (W4W) crew is rearranging supplies in an old-school Toyota 4Runner to accommodate me for the long drive.

We journeyed through a ghost city with no traffic. It was eerie to imagine that Kathmandu is home to a million people—or at least was—before the earthquake.

As we traveled north, we saw blocked roads, destroyed homes and entire neighborhoods reduced to rubble. It was hard to believe that there were previously any signs of life.

W4W had finished another extensive day in the field, aiding rural villages that had yet to receive any type of assistance. The NGO had been on the ground since the devastating earthquake on April 25th, supplying water filters to the Nepali people. Driggs explained their latest endeavors as we traveled the winding, mountainous terrain to where we were expected as guests for dinner that evening.

Later, as we gorged on yak cheese, goat meat and local beer, he detailed their frontline efforts to provide clean water to communities around the world. Collaborating with international leaders and strategic partners, they take a no-nonsense attitude to the many challenges at hand.

Sustainability is W4W’s main goal. By interacting with locals and understanding their needs, they’re able to teach and empower communities. The initiative’s success is evident once they’re able to remove themselves from region, having created self-reliant residents. Unlike many organizations that have a general plan for every country, W4W designs each project on a case-by-case basis. This allows them to operate fast, cutting through the usual slow chain of command and approval process common in disaster situations. They are selfless, being devoutly un-promotional in their operations, choosing to avoid the “selfies” and press opportunities that often encircle relief efforts.

W4W created the Clean Water Courier program based on a do-it-yourself model. Sponsored by brands like Nike and Hurley, it’s designed to bring clean water to catastrophe-stricken areas. Clean Water Couriers are just everyday people who distribute filters around the globe. The program encourages travelers to “pack a few filters in your suitcase” and help make a huge difference for communities in distress.


Photo by Ethan Lovell

On March 22nd of this year, W4W celebrated World Water Day with a #NoFilter campaign on Instagram. For every no filter image posted, they made one gallon of clean water accessible with their crews working in 12 different countries. Supporters like Red Bull, supermodel Gisele Bundchen and athlete Neymar made the campaign a success that resulted in 116 million no filter hashtags.

In addition to changing perceptions with their presence on social media, W4W has raised awareness of this alarming issue. Sadly, 750 million people (about one in nine) lack access to clean water. More than twice that many, 2.5 billion people (one-third of the world’s population) do not have adequate sanitation.

Universal access to safe drinking water is a fundamental need and human right.

Yet for every minute it takes to read this article, a child will die from a water-related disease—that’s over 1,400 children a day. As creator and ex-pro surfer Jon Rose states, “The issue isn’t technology, it’s accessibility,” proving that the global water crisis is a solvable problem.

W4W’s mission is simple: get clean water to every single person who needs it. Just one of their filtration systems can provide 100 people with one million gallons of clean water for up to five years. To date, they’ve distributed over 100,000 filters in dozens of countries around the world. Since their founding in 2009, they’ve provided access to clean water for over 7.5 million people. As a result, W4W is saving lives and redefining humanitarian aid. As their motto states, “Do what you love and help along the way.”

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