OKC-based Water4 Brings Clean Drinking Water to Millions in Developing Countries

Globally, at least 2 billion people use a drinking-water source contaminated with feces, according to the World Health Organization, and 842,000 deaths from diarrheal diseases each year could be prevented by improved water, sanitation and hygiene. Additionally, WHO/UNICEF estimate that 844 million people lack a basic drinking water service. 

One Oklahoma City-based organization is trying to change that. Water4 provides clean water to developing areas by teaching local entrepreneurs in developing countries how to drill, make and install water wells/pumps, and, more importantly, how to maintain them and teach others. 

This year, the organization has broader plans to work with district governments in places like Ghana, Rwanda and Sierra Leone to provide piped-in water that’s easier, faster and affordable for citizens of those countries.

“Instead of drilling new hand pump wells, we are working with the local government to create new businesses that can service wells that are broken and to provide piped water at the same cost as drilling hand pumps,” Matt Hangen, Water4’s new CEO, says.

Water4 started in 2008 after Richard and Terri Greenly, owners of Pumps of Oklahoma, realized that clean water was an issue that was a global problem. However, providing safe water would open doors that were normally closed to international humanitarian efforts.

They saw that water pumps that were provided by the United Nations in Africa were expensive and high-tech but often failed after only 11 months of use. The local people did not have the training to fix those wells, and soon, Africa was littered with the remains of once-functioning wells.

The organization has since provided access to clean drinking water for over 1 million people in sub-Saharan Africa and South America. Water4 has drilled 4,133 wells since 2008.

Water4 is now looking at a district approach in Wassa East, Ghana. Although residents would be charged 3 to 4 cents per five gallons of water, the fee would help not only pay for the system but create opportunities for additional entrepreneurship.

“In addition to the service and installation, we now have people who are employed as attendants who sell the water,” Matt says. “They buy it wholesale and sell it retail, but at a fixed price set by us and the local government. We make sure there will be no ‘water mafia’ situation.'”

When completed, the piped water system would service a quarter of a million people in Wassa, another quarter of a million in Rwanda and 150,000 in Sierra Leone.

“This changes everything for them. Instead of standing in line for hours after walking for miles, they can easily fill up their water containers with clean, chlorinated water,” Matt says. “The health impact will be tremendous. All this is done out of our offices at 10th and Villa here in Oklahoma City. We work with 400 different African entrepreneurs with our 20-person team in the city.”

For more information, visit Water4.org.