What does mixing water with ownership and microfinance produce? Water.org and its initiative WaterCredit, a program that helps microfinance organizations get into the business of making water and sanitation loans.

Loans? you ask. Why loans? Why not simply count on wealthy philanthropists to build wells, maintain pumps or provide sanitary services, doing that all over the world, thus providing universal access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation? Because decades of experience and billions of dollars worth of broken wells and pumps show that if a community is not directly involved in a project, even one it badly needs, the scheme won’t work, despite all the best intentions in the world from those initiating the project.  A sense of pride, commitment and ownership are necessary at the local level for projects to succeed, even one as huge as clean water worldwide and a toilet for all.

Hence microloans. In an article entitled, “The Real Future of Clean Water,” David Bornstein writes that Water.org has realized that with WaterCredit’s “reasonably priced loans, many households and communities in the developing world can install water connections, build latrines and wells, and tap into continuing capital sources to maintain them.” That puts the people who need the well or help repairing their pump in charge.

The idea is working. So far, according to the article, water.org “has invested $7.4 million in 30 microfinance organizations to date; they, in turn, have extended 150,500 loans totaling $28 million for water access and sanitation. So far, 840,000 people have benefited, 92 percent of the loans have gone to women, and the repayment rate is 98 percent.”

So if you’ve ever thought of helping to fix the world’s water crisis and provide safe water for everyone but didn’t know how, one meaningful way is to get involved in what water.org is doing. As the non-profit states, “There is no shortage of ways you can make a difference”.