6 water systems
21,084 people with clean water


 1 projects serving 3,802 people

  • Population:
  • Population living below $1.25 a day:
  • Life expectancy:
    63 years
  • Under 5 mortality rate:
    68 per 1,000 live births
  • Water1st Local Partner Organization:
    Water Action

Source: UNICEF

While being one of the world’s richest countries in terms of history, culture, and heritage, Ethiopia is one of the world’s poorest countries economically. In the 2010 United Nations Human Development Report, Ethiopia ranked 157th out of 169 countries in the Human Development Index. The lack of access to safe water and toilets places a heavy burden on children. Water-related illnesses are widespread, resulting in a child mortality rate in Ethiopia that is among the highest in the world. One out of every 10 children born today in Ethiopia will not live to see his or her fifth birthday.

The burden of water collection falls to women and girls who spend hours every day collecting water from distant sources. In addition, they are expected to cook, collect firewood, tend fields, and care for the sick, many of whom are suffering from water and sanitation-related diseases. Time spent collecting water is time that could be spent participating in income-generating opportunities or, in the case of girls, attending school. Neck and back injuries are common among the women of Oromia.

Since 2005, Water1st has been providing support to our Ethiopian partner organization, Water Action, to work with rural communities within the Oromia region, to implement water, sanitation, and hygiene projects.

Our Progress

From the Field

Our Ethiopia Program

The Daily Walk for Water

Water1st works in the rural Oromia region of Ethiopia, where approximately 90% of the people lack access to clean water, and only 7% have hygienic toilets. The burden of water collection is particularly high in Ethiopia. With no access to a safe water supply, women and girls collect water multiple times a day from distant sources, and carry it home in heavy containers weighing 40 pounds.

Our Ethiopia partner, Water Action, is working with rural communities to implement comprehensive water, sanitation, hygiene, and watershed protection programs.

Comprehensive and Integrated Systems

In order to have an impact on water supply, sanitation, health, natural resource protection, and the economy, our local partner develops a master plan for each watershed. Water1st is focused on implementing the plan for the Dawo Woreda, a county within the Oromia region. Projects are clustered geographically, resulting in compounded benefits. Communities can learn from one another, and a market emerges for supplies and spare parts.

Water Supply: Capped & Protected Springs, Drilled Wells, Piped Water

Projects use a capped and protected spring or a drilled well as the water source. Water is then pumped via miles of pipe to a storage tank and distributed by gravity to public water points. The water points are strategically located throughout the community to keep collection time under 15 minutes for all community members.

A water tap attendant opens each water point for a period of time in the morning and then again in the evening. Community members pay for the amount of water used, approximately 2 cents per 5 gallons.

Water systems are metered to assure quality control related to tap attendant fee collection and the swift identification of system leaks.

The Investment of Labor

Community members invest their labor in every stage of project construction. They are responsible for all unskilled labor, such as building access roads, excavating miles of pipeline trench by hand, carrying pipe, and building latrines.

Elected Water Boards

Households participating in the project elect a water management board, comprised of equal numbers of men and women. Each board is responsible for the ongoing operation of the water system, including collecting water fees and managing trained technicians who perform regular maintenance.


Sanitation is an important part of the health equation. Individual households are trained to construct their own latrines. The project goal is for 80% of households to have latrines by the time the water project is operating. Latrine design uses only locally-available and non pre-constructed materials in an effort to promote replication.

Hygiene Education

Community members conduct peer-to-peer hygiene education to further improve public-health conditions. Community hygiene promoters are trained to educate households about health and sanitation and the importance of clean water and latrines. Hygiene messages include: using the well water for all domestic purposes, washing hands frequently, and digging solid waste disposal pits in every yard.

Watershed Management 

Where needed, projects incorporate watershed management activities that promote groundwater recharge and prevent soil erosion.

New Initiatives

Government Co-Financing Projects with Water1st

We are happy to announce that the local government water office has agreed to co-finance our projects. This is a positive development on many fronts. Not only does it allow us to stretch our donations further, it leaves communities feeling hopeful their government cares about them, and ensures that local government has a stake in the project’s long-term success.

Independent Certification of Long-Term Project Success

Water Action is scheduled to be evaluated by the Water for Life Rating System. The Water for Life Rating System provides an independent certification of the quality and the long-term functioning of the work done by implementing organizations.

In 2011, our Honduras partner, COCEPRADIL, became the first organization to receive an independent evaluation by the Water for Life Rating System. In 2014, DSK, our Bangladesh partner was also evaluated. You can read the full assessment reports for COCEPRADIL and DSK here.

Access to water and toilets is without question a key ingredient to reducing childhood illness and death, and the best investment you can make to help people escape poverty. And grassroots funding from individuals is an intentional part of our strategy to support projects that endure.