For the past few years, the University of Colorado has hosted a WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) Symposium at their Sustainability, Energy and Environment Complex in Boulder. They bring together global leaders from the WASH sector to discuss how we can learn from each other as we all work towards the same goals—improving sanitation practices around the world and ending the Global Water Crisis.
As a Healing Waters Team, we got to hear from experts on how organizations like us can have a greater impact in the communities where we work. We took away the importance of coordinated efforts with local governments, other WASH actors, and even other sectors like nutrition and agriculture. We in the WASH sector need to work on strengthening local systems where we work, not just strengthening and training individuals. Institutional change is and will be more challenging than creating hardware, but truly solving this crisis will come through creating capable systems.
We have technology that works, and if all we needed to do was drop off the right technology to make water safe, the Global Water Crisis would be solved. The biggest challenges are on the “software” side—governance, supply chain, program design, local leadership and capacity building.
We have seen this truth with our own eyes through our work in various the last 15 years. We have learned that solving aspects of poverty are more than just providing a simple physical tool. We should remember that bringing change to a community requires investment from local leaders. As Victoria Cuellar from the Desert Research Institute stated, “We have to approach every need in a community by saying to the locals you’re the expert, tell us how we can help you.”
The CU WASH Symposium served as a reminder that despite the devastating stories and numbers accompany the Global Water Crisis, there are thousands of individuals and organizations who are working alongside us to end it. And as we work tirelessly to provide access to clean water we must remember one of Healing Waters’ Core Values: If it does not work on the ground, it does not work!
Photo Courtesy of CU WASH Symposium