Solving the world's safe water problem

One in 10 people lack access to this basic resource. Innovative ways of financing can help provide them with water for drinking, cooking, and bathing.

stock footage water drops closeup


Getting safe water is, for most of us, as simple as turning a faucet. But imagine if any water you want to use in your home — whether for washing, cooking, drinking, and even basic sanitation — has to be carried physically from a far-off source. And now imagine that this hard-earned water isn’t fit for drinking, but contaminated with chemicals, parasites, or even raw sewage.

Today, 1 in 10 people around the globe lacks access to safe water, a situation that can have an immense impact on their health and economic wellbeing. Both illness and the sheer number of hours spent getting access to water come with massive costs to those who can least afford it. Women are particularly affected by water scarcity—collecting it is generally their responsibility, and the time-consuming search can reduce their ability to work or care for their families.

For hundreds of millions of people, the solution might be as simple as installing an indoor tap. But finding the money to do so can be daunting. This is where market-based solutions can play an important role. “Financial institutions today have become more innovative in terms of financing these kinds of projects – bringing together philanthropy, commercial banks, private equity and development banks to create positive change,” says Anne Finucane, Vice Chairman, Bank of America. “There’s never going to be enough charity in the world to solve the global water crisis. It would take about $200 billion a year for the next five years to do that,” adds Gary White, founder of Water.org, a 25-year-old organization whose mission is to help provide access to safe water and sanitation. Currently, annual aid is just $8 billion. That’s why Water.org recently launched WaterEquity, to give socially-conscious investors a way to start to fill the funding gap and change lives.

Through Water.org’s microfinance solution, WaterCredit, more than 7 million people have gained access to safe water and sanitation through small, affordable loans—with 99% repayment rates. WaterEquity is designed to increase the availability and affordability of the capital needed to bring these loans to those who need them most.

To support this effort, Bank of America recently committed to providing a $5 million zero-interest loan to WaterEquity’s WaterCredit Investment Fund 3 (WCIF3), a $50 million fund projected to provide safe water and sanitation services to at least 4.6 million people in South and Southeast Asia during its seven-year term. Through WCIF3, accredited investors can get a moderate return while also helping others.

Shared successes like these — between individuals and institutions harnessing the power of capital markets to do good — are what drives Bank of America’s environmental, social and governance work. “It’s finding innovative ways to deploy capital and activate partnerships to fuel social and economic progress around the world,” says Finucane.

Read more about how individuals and institutions are partnering to provide clean, safe water for everyone.


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