What does water mean to you?

Water underpins everything we do, from providing food and opportunities, to driving innovation and helping us keep our families healthy. Water is hope, dignity, empowerment and progress.

We take for granted that we can have fresh, safe water at the turn of a tap. In the UK we each use a staggering 150 litres on average every day. Yet around the world, 748 million people do not have access to clean water.

From Colombia to Zimbabwe, our partners are helping communities to access water. For World Water Day, have a look at a round-up of just some of our water projects and what it means to the people we work with.

Water is… better nutrition

Children wash their hands in water from an elephant pump in their village

In rural areas of Zimbabwe, most households have to travel up to 10km to the nearest water source.

But in eastern Manicaland Province, Christian Aid has cut that distance to less than 500 metres.

Thanks to a partnership with The Africa Trust (TAT), more than 50 communities now have access to innovative, low tech and low cost water pumps, benefitting more than 2,000 people.

These so-called elephant pumps are locally sourced and built, promoting employment within the communities.

They are safer than unprotected, deep wells, reduce the risk of contracting water borne diseases like cholera and dysentery and have improved household nutrition as villagers have been able to establish vegetable gardens.

More than 60 per cent of Zimbabwe’s rural water supply is in disrepair, according to UNICEF. Yet at any one time more than 95 per cent of these award-winning pumps are working.

Water is… an extra harvest

Magalita Mafuta and Lazaro Kagula maintain the weir that provides their community’s irrigation system in rural Malawi.

Erratic weather patterns make it harder for families in rural Malawi to know when to plant, and harder to get a good harvest from the maize.

Magalita and Lazaro are two of the 63 families in their community benefitting from the irrigation system they constructed with help from Christian Aid’s local partner EAM using water from a nearby river.

They now have an extra harvest during the dry season — just when they need more food.

Water is… a closer tie to your land

The design of this pump was a joint effort between the community, our partner and the engineer.

For people caught in natural disasters or war zones, where they have had to flee their homes, the lack of water can make the difference between life and death.

In Colombia, a country where war has displaced over 6 million people, cholera outbreaks and children dying from diarrhoea and dehydration are not infrequent, all due to the lack of clean, safe drinking water.

Our local partners Corambiente and CCALCP campaign and lobby the government to protect important water sources from infrastructure projects which may divert rivers and mining activities which depend heavily on water and affect important water sources.

Corambiente also helps set up water pumps for displaced and remote rural communities. Recently, this partner was successful in helping the community install five water pumps, offering clean water to people who have been displaced from their land.

The availability of water will give the community more reasons to continue fighting for the land that was taken away from them.

Water is… health

Water is essential for human health. Regular hand washing is one of the best ways to kill germs and prevent the spread of disease.

Fridah Mwari washes her hands using a ‘leaky tin’ she has hung in her garden. A leaky tin is an improvised tap for homes without running water.

Hung from a tree, it has a hole in the side, plugged with a stick. When you remove the stick a trickle of water comes out for washing your hands. When you’re finished you just replace the stick.

Used with the soap hung on the tree next to it, it helps prevent the spread of disease. The leaky tin has helped reduce cases of diarrhoea in the family.

Fridah learned about the leaky tin, along with other health messages about hygiene and sanitation, as part of a mother support group run by our partner ADSMKE in Isiolo county, central Kenya.

Water is… empowerment

Ayilu Ayuki collects water from a solar powered water point in her village in rural Ethiopia.

Every day women spend 200 million hours carrying water. In rural Ethiopia Christian Aid and local partner Action for Development are building solar powered water points in villages so that women do not have to travel long distances.

The system pumps water from a borehole uphill into a reservoir 2000 metres away using solar energy.

The water is then distributed by gravity to four separate water points and two cattle troughs through a network of underground pipes. So far these water pumps are directly benefitting 2,600 people — and, indirectly many, many more.

Before the scheme women would have to walk up to eight hours to collect water for their families and livestock.

As well as being dangerous, the long walk meant a loss of time and opportunity for women and children. However, now the water supply is so close women are able to grow crops and children can attend school.

Local people were given training on how to maintain the systems as well as being fully involved in the construction of the project giving them full ownership.

Find out more about the work of our partners