Oscar-winner Matt Damon and Gary White, a water expert and engineer who created the WaterCredit initiative, are on a mission to bring clean water to everyone worldwide. The duo co-founded Water.org in 2009 to help the more than 660 million people who lack access to safe water.
“The water in our toilet bowls [in the U.S.] is actually cleaner than these 660 million people have access to,” Damon told “CBS This Morning” on Wednesday, which is World Water Day.
The issue impacts women and girls disproportionately, he added, “because the water collection will usually fall to them.”
“So you have all of these girls who aren’t in school because they’re tasked with scavenging for water for the family. And so you can see what that would do to their outcome, what they can expect from their life. And so not only is this kind of unnecessarily killing children, but it’s also really affecting their lives in other ways. It’s robbing them of hope,” Damon said.
To help solve the problem, the Water.org team has been implementing water credit initiatives that allow people in the developing world access small loans for water connection or toilets.
“We know the people in these countries are already paying huge amounts of money for water and what we want to do is help them get access to small loans because we know there’s never going to be enough charity to get water for everyone,” White said. “I was in Peru just last week. I met a woman who had taken out a loan for a water connection in her house. Before that, she was having to walk down this mountainside to buy water from a water vendor, poor quality water. That water was costing her 13 times more per gallon than the water she now has in her tap.”
Their aim is to multiply and go beyond philanthropy into investing, White said.
“The great thing about these loans is that they pay back at 99 percent and above, and 94 percent of our borrowers are women,” Damon said. “So what happens is the loans, as they come back, they get sent out and they get recycled so you’re driving down the philanthropic cost of capital per person.”
Digging a well, for example, might cost about $25, Damon said, but in some of Water.org’s more mature programs, the cost is down to $5 “because the money keeps going out and coming back.”