Around the world, population growth, agriculture, and industry are transforming water into an increasingly scarce resource. Climate change is affecting water cycles and melting glaciers that sustain communities. As global water resources become more limited, water is being privatized in the hands of corporations, forcing millions to depend on illegal taps, dirty canals, and other unreliable and unsafe sources.

Improving access to clean water means so much more than building wells and infrastructure. Without protecting water at its source, there wouldn’t be any clean water to pump. Global Greengrants Fund channels small grants to groups who are protecting and replenishing water sources, fighting to keep toxins out of rivers and lakes, and fostering a healthy planet with clean, abundant water.


It is essential to support grassroots groups now in securing their water rights, as their voices may not be there for much longer.  For generations, forest dwellers and agriculturists have adapted to a scarcity of water.  But new challenges are emerging. Climate change is causing devastating floods and lack of rain. Corporate development means poison seeping into aquifers and rivers, biofuel plantations destroying once-fertile lands. It will be too much for them to bear without effective support for change.
Nonette Royo, Greengrants Alliance of Funds Advisor

Water access, especially for the world’s poorest populations, is seriously at risk. Privatization, climate change, and overuse by industries have contributed to the increasing numbers of people who lack access to water worldwide. Increased access to clean water has become a priority for communities around the globe.

1 in 3 people lack access to enough water to meet their daily needs

Greengrants is working in concert with grassroots organizations to expand access to water worldwide. Our grantees are fighting for their communities’ right to water by building strong networks and movements to demand action.

Movimiento Mi Cometa


In Guayaquil, Ecuador, more than 30,000 families lost their access to safe water because of improper management by a private company. The company repeatedly interrupted service, cut off access to water because of inability to pay, and failed to expand access to poor communities. Most devastatingly, in 2005, a Hepatitis A outbreak resulted from the company’s inadequate treatement of wastewater. 

With two grants, one for $4,900 in 2008 and another for $2,500 in 2009, Greengrants was able to help Movimiento Mi Cometa advocate against Interagua’s abuses. Mi Cometa formed a coalition of organizations and traveled to Quito (the capital of Ecuador) to challenge the constitutionality of water privatization and to hold public events to increase awareness about its impacts for local citizens. In 2008, the movement succeeded in securing language in Ecuador’s new constitution that guarantees water as a human right. Though Interagua still manages water in Guayaquil, Mi Cometa’s work has helped ensure that the company is more closely regulated.

Industrial pollution—from oil extraction and mining, chemical-intensive agriculture, and manufacturing—has seriously contaminated water in communities from Nigeria to the Philippines to Peru.  A lack of appropriate sanitation facilities compounds this problem and leads to over 12 million deaths each year. Greengrants helps to combat this tragedy by supporting water quality monitoring programs, education about water pollution, and cleanup campaigns.



Over 80% of disease in developing countries is related to poor drinking water and sanitation – World Health Organization

Public Ecological Organization “Chayanda”


Oil and gas extraction in Russia’s Yakut region has polluted numerous water sources and severely impacted the health of populations throughout the region. Heavy metal contamination and water borne illnesses contribute to significantly lower life expectancies and higher infant mortality than in the rest of the developed world. In 2008, Greengrants awarded Chayanda with $2,426 to improve the conditions of the heavily polluted Nuja River and its tributaries. Grant funds will be used to carry-out an independent analysis of the river’s water quality and to build local awareness of river pollution; funds will be used to organize a five day expedition of local activists, members of Chayanda, and environmental experts in their efforts to inform communities about water safety. The group will also continue negotiations with the oil-and-gas companies, together with local authorities, on the issue of improving the region’s access to potable water.

Successfully managing existing water resources—watersheds, lakes, rivers, and coastal ecosystems—is an essential component for ensuring the long-term sustainability of our planet’s water.

One flush of the toilet in the U.S. represents the amount of water most people throughout the world use in an entire day

Community-based groups play an important role in this resource stewardship.  From mapping watersheds to designing management plans to restoring degraded habitats, locally-led groups are at the forefront of the movement for sustainability.

Partners of Community Organizations


In Malaysia, indigenous Kadazandusun communities live in and manage the Moyog River watershed, the only source of water Malaysia’s sixth largest city, Sabah. In 2008, Greengrants awarded Partners of Community Organizations $5,000 to help ensure responsible water management far into the future. Funds were used to hold several participatory mapping workshops. The workshops created a three-dimensional model of the watershed in order to document local community land use and sacred sites and to highlight areas of threat and opportunity for the watershed.  This model will be used for natural resource management planning, forest conservation advocacy, erosion prevention and mitigation, and environmental education.

Greengrants is the proud global partner of Aveda Corporation in their annual Earth Month campaign. We work with Aveda throughout the year to support clean water projects in regions where Aveda sources their ingredients. In 2010, Light the Way candle sales and Aveda fundraisers raised more than $1 million to support water-related projects in disadvantaged communities. Check out your local Aveda salon or store to learn more, especially during the month of April!

Water – Download this feature brochure on grassroots approaches to protecting and improving access to this vital resource (pdf).

Water Rights in China and South America – A Discussion on Access and Equity – Americans consume water at the highest per capita rate in the world. Globally, however, access to water is increasingly scarce, especially in the Global South. Indeed, water rights is likely to be one of the most contentious issues of the 21st century at both the policy and grassroots levels. Global Greengrants Fund is taking action on this urgent issue by framing the discussion in terms of access to water as a universal human right. Our advisors and grantees address this complex issue from a variety of perspectives, and the aggregate effect is allowing those who are most impacted by the decisions to take part in the decision-making process. We are pleased to offer a recording of the conference call hosted by Global Greengrants Fund on these issues which features an interview with Enrique Bostelmann (Advisory Board Coordinator for the Andes and Southern Cone of South America boards) and Baohua Yan (China Advisor). To listen to the call, recorded on May 28, 2009, click here. To read a transcript of the call click here

Additional information on water rights:

China Environment Series 2007
Report on the State of the Environment in China (2006)
In Ecuador, A Fight for Safe, Affordable Water (Boston Globe)
Chilean Town Withers in Free Market for Water (New York Times)