Frequently Asked Questions

About our financials

Although it sounds reasonable that a higher percentage of money spent on building wells means more money goes directly to people in need of safe water, our operational costs are critical; they fund activities that ensure projects achieve the intended outcomes and objectives. If an organization doesn’t spend money on monitoring and evaluating its work, how do they know if they are successfully addressing the problems they are attempting to solve? How do they consistently make changes to keep getting better? While the general percentages are one way of evaluating a nonprofit, supporters are also interested in our program outcomes. The quality of our projects and programs and the impact they have on the communities we serve is at least as important as the relative percent of money spent on program versus administration and fundraising. Visit “where we work” on our website to learn more about how we consistently monitor our projects, both old and new. Additionally, we encourage supporters to compare IRS Form 990 data. In the Form 990, organizations report actual expenses. The percentage of funds we spend on our program expenses compares favorably to other organizations in this sector. Finally, we encourage you to look at our financial reports. We conduct a yearly audit because our spending should be completely transparent to our supporters.

We provide high quality, sustainable solutions that solve the water and sanitation problems of vulnerable communities in a comprehensive way. Donors might feel they are making a greater difference by giving to organizations that claim a lower per-person rate, but all water projects are not equal in their outcomes. A project that results in more time savings and larger volumes of water use has a greater impact on a family’s health and economic well-being. The benefits of a comprehensive solution far outweigh the extra cost, especially over time.

At Water1st, we do not sacrifice best practices for faster and cheaper practices that are incomplete and/or unsustainable. A rate of $85 per person is worth every penny to provide a complete solution to the number one cause of illness and death for people living in vulnerable communities, especially when it frees up the time of women and girls to attend school and earn an income.

Although we don’t have access to the budgets of other organizations and therefore can’t set up direct comparisons, the following issues impact Water1st project costs:

Ending the daily walk for water for women and girls is a priority that requires access to water in every household, community gathering place, and school. This is why we are committed to providing every family with a kitchen tap, a toilet, and a shower, right at their home. The more common approach includes a shared water point or hand pump located in the center of a community, an approach that fails to end the time-consuming task of water collection for women and girls. Therefore, we invest in miles of pipe to carry water directly from a well or spring to homes; as much as 70% of a project cost pays for high quality pipe. Piping water adds significant cost, but our partner organizations are masters at conceiving and implementing large water supply systems that serve as many people as technically possible, often extending to several communities.

We engage the entire community in the planning, construction, and long-term maintenance of every project; our beneficiaries are active decision-makers. Our in-country partners cooperate with local government and coordinate with other aid agencies to ensure that our projects reach those who need them the most. Coordination of all stakeholders is part of the investment we make to guarantee project success and one we believe is worthwhile, even though it increases our cost per person.

Changing behavior is not easy. Therefore, we support the implementation of comprehensive hygiene education programs by our in-country partners. Using toilets, washing hands, and using safe water for all purposes (such as bathing and laundry) are the best ways to prevent the spread of disease. However, experience has shown that knowledge is not enough, and people tend to know more than they practice–consider how difficult it is for us in the U.S. to exercise and eat healthy foods even though we know it’s important for our long-term health. Hygiene education programs typically take longer to implement than the construction of water points and toilets. Our experience has shown that teams of local hygiene promoters are most successful at turning knowledge into behavior change when they employ a variety of strategies with multiple in-person interactions, over a long period of time.

Our projects leverage local resources whenever possible. Our local partner organizations are recognized and respected in the regions where they work. Because of their great relationships, they are able to access the best available local resources: people, funding, and materials. In many of our projects, the community members are able to provide local construction materials such as sand, gravel, and wood. Our partners also work closely with local government, allowing for access to government resources, such as professional staff, equipment, and funding. Collaboration benefits everyone as all stakeholders are vested in the success of a project: local government staff feel valued, community members have a multitude of ways to contribute, and Water1st funding and resources are stretched even further.

Capital cost recovery is increasingly important to our projects. Even though our beneficiaries are poor, they help pay 40 percent to 100 percent of the capital costs of their projects through monthly installments. This financial investment on the part of our project participants tells us that they place a high value on improving their water supply, giving us greater assurance that the project will be well-maintained. It also allows the participants to choose between a variety of options, giving them an added sense of ownership. The loan program also helps Water1st and our local partners reach more people in need of safe water and toilets; repaid loan funds are used to begin additional projects.

About our projects

We believe our work is unique in the following ways:

  1. We focus on local capacity building: we assist local organizations in their efforts to address their specific water-related issues. At Water1st, we are committed to practices that foster effective international aid, such as investing in the development of our in-country partner organizations. We are not wasteful; we are effective.
  2. Our money goes to community-level projects that integrate water, sanitation, and hygiene education. Community-level projects provide equal benefits to all community members and are the best approach because:
    -They allow for the most efficient and cost-effective solution; the cost of developing a water source can be shared by many individuals.
    -They offer greater health benefits. A major pathway of waterborne illnesses is person to person. If my neighbors are still getting sick because they haven’t adopted better hygiene practices, then I don’t reduce my risk by making changes in my own household, particularly in communities where people live in high-density environments.
    -They are sustained by the support of many trained, motivated people in the community. When the project is ultimately owned and operated by every beneficiary, everyone is invested in keeping it running.
  3. We have established ambitious and measurable goals for all projects. We expect that every project will effectively eliminate water collection time for women and girls. Projects must result in at least 50 gallons of water use a day per household. Every household must pay for the water it uses and the amount of money collected must exceed monthly expenses. Every family must have a convenient, odorless toilet that completely separates human waste from the environment. In addition to homes, projects must serve all public spaces: schools, clinics, and places of worship.
  4. We back-up our claims of sustainability with rigorous project monitoring. We follow up more thoroughly and frequently than other groups. We learn valuable lessons about our programs when we visit a project after five years versus a site visit at two years. Lessons learned at every stage of our monitoring process, over a span of decades, guide improvements and foster sustainability.
  5. We develop relationships with our beneficiaries and local partner organizations.
  6. We respect our beneficiaries and local partners. We listen to our beneficiaries and seek to address their greatest need.
Our in-country partner organizations and project participants are intelligent, resourceful people. We believe in working collaboratively with local in-country partners to empower communities to build and maintain their own water systems. By unlocking the potential of vulnerable populations, who by lottery of birth, happen to lack access to water, education, and a decent wage, we can create a healthier and more equitable world.

Household filters can purify water. But they’re not a solution to the world water crisis, a far more complicated problem than unclean water. Here’s what household filters don’t do:

Household filters don’t end the walk for water, which is about time and gender equity; they don’t carry water for women and children. Women and girls in poor countries walk up to 5 hours a day carrying home heavy containers of water for their families. This prevents them from taking part in economic and development opportunities that move their communities forward, such as starting a small business. It also prevents millions of girls from going to school, thus perpetuating a cycle of illiteracy among women. Access to education impacts the population and economy of a country as a whole: countries with the least educated people are the poorest.

Household filters don’t make water convenient, accessible, or available at sufficient quantities. Why is water quantity so important? Unlike your average person in the U.S., who is using too much water, our beneficiaries need to use more water. Water is the foundation of good hygiene. If the goal is to prevent the spread of disease, then frequent hand washing, bathing, and the washing of dishes and clothes is as important, if not more important, than clean drinking water. Household filters only purify the water you have. When people don’t have enough water to practice good hygiene, household treatment devices such as filters are woefully inadequate.

Water1st projects address all pathways to disease: food preparation, working with animals, sanitation, and drinking. Having an accessible water supply and toilet nearby addresses every potential pathway.

Household filters typically cost a lot, especially when you take replacement costs into consideration, and not all people in a community can afford them. Households have a difficult time knowing when to replace a filter, and even if they do know when to replace, the high cost often results in families postponing the expense until it’s too late. It’s actually more economical and sustainable to support a Water1st community-level project that addresses water, sanitation, and hygiene, than it is to manage a household filter over time.

Filters don’t develop a community’s organizational capacity and help communities solve their own problems, beyond water. They are a quick fix, which really isn’t addressing the primary public health problem.

Return on Investment (ROI) is a complicated formula, particularly for a water project, which provides multi-faceted benefits to an entire community. Experts estimate benefits of projects that integrate water supply, toilets, and hygiene education to be in the range of 3 to 34 times the cost. This is a wide range of possible returns on one’s investment. And these are the theoretical benefits, which will not be realized by the community if the project doesn’t adequately address all issues or suffers from management issues and stops producing the full range of benefits after a short period of time.

Water1st implements projects that achieve outcomes at the high end of the scale, particularly when it comes to our comprehensive solution and project longevity. We implement piped-water systems that deliver water to every household and community gathering place. We provide flush toilets. Our hygiene education programs are thorough; allowing beneficiaries to practice key behaviors learned because they have the necessary resources (10+ gallons of water per person per day and a pour flush toilet). Water1st projects address every pathway of disease transmission, enabling every community to experience maximum health benefits.

Water1st projects completely eliminate the walk for water, a labor input that women and children must invest in daily when water is not piped to every household. Every foot of pipe purchased equals one foot of walking avoided, 365 days a year, for the life of the pipe (10-25 years). A 3-meter segment of pipe costs about $5.25. Each 3-meter segment of pipe saves at least 60 hours of labor over its lifetime.

At this point, ROI calculations become very controversial. Economists would assign a market rate value a woman’s time. In Honduras, it could be as low as $1/hr, resulting in an ROI of 11:1. But the money invested is actually a product of the labor of a person in the United States, where the donation of 3 meters of pipe represents 6-20 minutes of labor. In this case, the ROI is between 180 and 600 to 1. We assert that the latter method of calculating ROI is more accurate in this context.

In the regions where we work, we have never heard a woman say that she misses carrying water for 5 hours a day. They only give thanks that they have safe, clean water nearby. A common response we hear is, “I thought I’d never see the day of having water at my house.” We once made the mistake of asking a woman in Honduras if she would walk with us to the water source she used before the water project. She politely but firmly refused. She said she never wants to walk to that water source again. The truth is that the social interactions at a water source are often very unpleasant. Women vie for the best locations to fill containers. Women who come from greater distances are considered intruders and often endure verbal and even physical abuse. When those women get access to a water source, they are elated. When they are actually part owners of the system, the part of their day that used to bring them shame becomes a source of pride.

It is true that there are cultural differences around the world. We can’t assume someone living in a far-off place wants the same things that we do. But having clean, easily accessible water is a fundamental human need. It transforms lives and lifts communities out of poverty. It ends terrible suffering.

We do work with local partners to insure cultural differences are respected and understood. This helps our projects succeed and last for the long haul.

We don’t live next to our water sources and that’s a good thing; densely populated areas near water sources lead to contamination. Our beneficiaries have been living on their land for years—their land is their livelihood. They have legal title or a long-term agreement with the government to farm on certain land, so they stay where they are for good reason. Lack of access to water is often caused by two variables:
  1. As population grows, people begin to inhabit the land on the outer edge of the current community or city. This typically means they have to travel a little farther to get their water. Because of the weight of water, it doesn’t take long for the distance to the water source to become a barrier to good health. Each person needs about 10 gallons of water per day for drinking and personal hygiene. Very few communities on the planet have settlement patterns that allow every household to successfully collect 50 gallons of water a day without the assistance of a community water system.
  2. Some water sources have disappeared as a result of overuse, contamination, or a change in climate.
A corollary to this question is often, ”Why don’t people move to urban areas where there are water supply systems and sewer systems?” Many people are already doing this. For the first time in human history, the number of urban dwellers exceeds the number of people living in rural areas. Unfortunately, the pattern of migration to urban areas is already overwhelming the urban life-support systems. Few cities are able to meet the current demand for water and sewers, let alone effectively manage other health issues like trash collection and surface water runoff. Poor urban squatters typically have no legal way to connect to public water systems and sewers, exacerbating the water and sanitation crisis in dense urban areas. We believe it is better to help people create a better life for themselves where they are.

Lack of access to water is usually a consequence of lack of resources. The communities we work in are very poor and can’t buy the materials and services necessary for a reliable water, sanitation, and hygiene-education project. In addition, community organizing and problem solving is a great challenge when individuals are consumed with subsistence-level existence.

Water collection is a woman’s job, and resources (even in highly technological, wealthy, equal rights professing America) are often under-allocated to issues that affect women disproportionally. One could argue that governments should assume this role; after all, most of us in the U.S. and other rich countries rely on government-built and operated water and sewer systems.

Our experience is that governments (including our highly-responsive democracy) under-invest in the problems of the poor. Governments of impoverished countries typically fall short when it comes to maintaining infrastructure. Rather than relying on governments to voluntarily address the needs of the poor, we believe in empowering such communities to advocate for themselves in the competitive political arena.

About getting involved

Water1st has expertise in converting donations into results. We:

  1. give money in large enough (sufficient?) quantities to implement entire community-level projects;
  2. write contracts with our partner organizations detailing all the activities they will do for the funding they receive;
  3. evaluate a proposal and determine if the design is a good one for the context;
  4. evaluate whether the costs are reasonable and competitive with other organizations;
  5. conduct a site visit and determine whether the outcomes on the ground match up to the stipulations of the contract. We can inspect infrastructure and detect any construction flaws; and
  6. conduct an interview with a water committee and evaluate their level of competence at managing the community system.
 

We have systems and relationships in place that streamline the process of soliciting, implementing, and monitoring a project. The oversight and coordination make it the most efficient use of donor funds.

Also, we have specific project contracts with our partner organizations so that we can consolidate a variety of donations and pool that money to make a community-scale project possible.

Water1st International’s expertise is in selecting and monitoring partner organizations. We provide extensive monitoring of our projects – past, current, and future – to ensure that the project gets done in a timely fashion and is still working well into the future. This follow-up also ensures that your donation has been put to good use. Learn more about our project monitoring and follow-up.

Water1st has expertise in converting donations into results. We:
  1. give money in large enough (sufficient?) quantities to implement entire community-level projects;
  2. write contracts with our partner organizations detailing all the activities they will do for the funding they receive;
  3. evaluate a proposal and determine if the design is a good one for the context;
  4. evaluate whether the costs are reasonable and competitive with other organizations;
  5. conduct a site visit and determine whether the outcomes on the ground match up to the stipulations of the contract. We can inspect infrastructure and detect any construction flaws; and
  6. conduct an interview with a water committee and evaluate their level of competence at managing the community system.
We have systems and relationships in place that streamline the process of soliciting, implementing, and monitoring a project. The oversight and coordination make it the most efficient use of donor funds. Also, we have specific project contracts with our partner organizations so that we can consolidate a variety of donations and pool that money to make a community-scale project possible. Water1st International’s expertise is in selecting and monitoring partner organizations. We provide extensive monitoring of our projects – past, current, and future – to ensure that the project gets done in a timely fashion and is still working well into the future. This follow-up also ensures that your donation has been put to good use. Learn more about our project monitoring and follow-up.

Every community deserves access to clean water, yet every poor country suffers from lack of this basic resource.

A strong local partner is the key to our success. Our partners are non-governmental organizations that have proven their ability to undertake sustainable water, sanitation, and hygiene-education projects.

A local partner guarantees our sustained impact in a region. Working through our trusted partners has tremendous benefits, including:

Sustainability. Our partner organizations are comprised of professionals – professional engineers, hydrologists, public health workers, and community organizers – who are from the regions where they work. The sustainability of our projects is dependent upon their expertise in organizing and training the communities to take responsibility for the project once it is completed. There is no guarantee that there is a highly competent organization able to carry out sustainable work in Community X where you may have a close personal connection. We believe that those people are best served if we can demonstrate a sound approach to project implementation and establish that as a model for all organizations to follow. If funders are proficient at channeling resources to organizations doing the best work, more highly qualified organizations will materialize and meet the need.

Stability. We maintain and increase the capacity of the organization – by investing in good in-country organizations we all get better together. Typically, international aid organizations do not provide consistent funding; it’s feast or famine. It’s difficult to grow an organization if you can’t count on consistent funding. The organization may receive a grant and begin to develop a strong program, only to reach the end of a 3-year or 5-year contract that does not get renewed. The unfortunate consequence is that the organization must reduce its staffing levels. This means they lose the expertise they have developed and are no longer the same effective organization they were when the next round of funding materializes.

Efficiency and effectiveness. Working with specific partners makes the follow-up and monitoring of projects more efficient and effective – you can evaluate past, current, and future projects all in one visit. Rather than jumping from partner to partner, from country to country, we focus on a particular partner organization and help it grow and improve. Because we provide continuous support to our partners, they are encouraged to try new approaches or make small changes in their programs. Local partner organizations working in a concentrated area earn a reputation among communities. Trust in a partner organization develops because people have seen and heard about their neighbor’s successful water project; natural growth and progress happens step by step, community by community. People living in poverty are often cautious about change, particularly if the people promoting the change are strangers to them. Our local partners are from the region; they know the language and culture and how best to communicate and work with communities.

Consider getting involved with Water1st – donate, volunteer, attend an event, share our mission with a friend, start an event in your community, join us on a Water Tour to our project countries. Your involvement is necessary to help solve the water crisis. Visit the ‘Get Involved’ section of our website for more information.

Water1st believes that the human resources capable of addressing access issues are best found locally. The technical expertise exists in the countries where we work; local people understand the complexities of extreme poverty and know how to solve their own problems. Unfortunately, they lack the funding to solve their highest need problems. We do not believe in building dependency on outside groups; we believe in building local capacity.

We do not want anyone to dismiss the power of a monetary donation – every donation is an expression of compassion and commitment to the people we serve. Our beneficiaries constantly tell us how in awe they are of the generosity of people they have never even met.

Share our mission with your friends. Together, we can create a healthier and more equitable world.

About us

Our current tax-deductibility status can be verified on the IRS website. Our legitimacy is also verified Guidestar and Charity Navigator websites.

Water1st is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Our tax ID number is 20-2601035. Our current tax-deductibility status can be verified on the IRS website.

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Wine sales tax and shipping fees

Sales tax: Sales tax is based on your address. We’ll send you a receipt that includes your sales tax and shipping fee (if applicable).

Approximate shipping costs:
Complimentary Seattle-area deliveries for all purchases.

Fall 2021 promotion – Free shipping of orders of 12 bottles (1 case). You may order as many cases as you want. Free shipping promotion is limited to 2 cases/person/month.

Please note approximate shipping costs vary depending on destination. Due to shipping fees that are beyond our control, our suggested minimum order is 3 bottles:
1-3 bottles $24-28
6 bottles $27-37
12 bottles $37-57
*If shipping to Alaska and Hawaii, please call the winery for a quote at (509) 875-2211

Shipping available to the following 36 states + Washington DC: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Washington DC, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Water from Wine is a very small winery and unable to benefit from competitive shipping rates that larger wineries enjoy. Wine is shipped via UPS, which adds additional fees for shipping alcohol because an adult over 21 must sign for delivery. Water from Wine does not profit from shipping costs. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns.

Wine sales tax and shipping fees

Sales tax: Sales tax is based on your address. We’ll send you a receipt that includes your sales tax and shipping fee (if applicable).

Approximate shipping costs:
Fall 2021 promotion – Free shipping of orders of 12 bottles (1 case). You may order as many cases as you want. Free shipping promotion is limited to 2 cases/person/month.

Please note approximate shipping costs vary depending on destination. Due to shipping fees that are beyond our control, our suggested minimum order is 3 bottles:
1-3 bottles $24-28
6 bottles $27-37
12 bottles $37-57
*If shipping to Alaska and Hawaii, please call the winery for a quote at (509) 875-2211

Shipping available to the following 36 states + Washington DC: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Washington DC, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Water from Wine is a very small winery and unable to benefit from competitive shipping rates that larger wineries enjoy. Wine is shipped via UPS, which adds additional fees for shipping alcohol because an adult over 21 must sign for delivery. Water from Wine does not profit from shipping costs. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns..