Clean, safe drinking water and sanitation is crucial not only to a community's health but also its ability to progress educationally, economically, and politically. Potable drinking water is basic to disease prevention, maternal and child health, school attendance and a community’s economic growth. Therefore, providing water infrastructure is central to the Rotary International's areas of focus.
The Strategic Water Alliance (SWA) started back in 2007, when a Rotarian of the Dulles Club, Rich McCary, had a classmate whose son was serving a two year stint in the Peace Corp of Zambia, Africa. The Dulles Club saw how the locals not only had to walk long distances for water but also didn't even have a clean supply (only shallow wells and streams that were often contaminated with runoff). After finding a sustainable solution (a 50 meter bore hole with a hand pump), the Dulles Club funded not only the pump but also a tool-kit for long-term maintenance. After this greatly successful project, the SWA was formed. For the next two years, members continued to travel to Zambia to learn more through photos and interviews with schools.
In 2011-2012, the Dulles Club reached out to other clubs in District 7610 to band together for financing and spreading the workload. As more clubs joined the iniative, projects involving sanitation and hygiene education were developed to complement the other programs. From creating simple boreholes back in 2007, the SWA has transitioned into making large-scale, impactful projects all over the world, from submersible pumps to elevated storage tanks.
We work together to build sustainable water infrastructure, from wells to latrines and hygiene education, in under-served communities.
However, our projects are only sustainable if the local community takes ownership.
Thus, we work with to develop the proper natural, cultural, and financial assets so that our projects will last. We provide resources about ongoing maintenance and repair of wells and latrines, as well as essential hygiene training. Community involvement is crucial in project sustainability, so we invest our time in educating and forming long lasting relationships with community members.
Since our inception in 2007, there are now 18 participating clubs in the Strategic Water Alliance. We work together with host clubs under the Rotary International's Global Grant (GG) program. While they provide the needs-assessments and general oversight, we provide technical expertise and extra financial support. Our members have conducted some 10 trips abroad to help with project oversight and maintenance.