What they are and how they evolve to better demonstrate—and proclaim—the gospel.
When Living Water International was founded in 1990, the world was just waking up to the importance of water. The UN Millennium Development Goal for water wouldn’t come into being for another 10 years. Communities gaining access to safe water was remarkable by itself, especially when done in Jesus’ name. It still is, but we’ve learned a lot along the way.
Over time, the water sector recognized that sanitation dramatically increases the impact of safe water. Suddenly people were referring to the “WatSan” sector. Then we discovered hygiene also had a multiplier effect, and “WASH” (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) became the term for that life-saving combination of interventions. How exactly we involve communities in their own transformation and how to best trigger positive behaviors is an even more complex set of realities that evolves and improves more than the interventions themselves.
In 2010 we spent the year systematically discovering the most impactful practices among our 24 country operations and partners and combining them with the best available research to develop tools to make our work an even more worthy offering to God.
One of these tools was a set of program standards designed to get all Living Water programs aligned in the same direction. Drawn from a much longer, more technical material, these standards address topics like:
Living Water uses a number of different technologies for water supply, including spring protection, gravity flow systems, rainwater harvesting, and point-of-use filtration. However, the majority of our work consists of drilled water wells fitted with hand pumps. Every Living Water borehole is required to meet a specific set of criteria in its location, public access, distance from potential contamination sources, installation, sanitation, and protection.
Every Living Water system is required to undergo testing when it is installed and periodically thereafter. Quality assurance and education is fundamental to ensuring water is truly safe and will increase community health. Bacterial contamination can be deadly. Chemical or mineral characteristics can cause health problems too, and can damage pumps and hardware. Attention to aesthetic factors is important too. Even if water is perfectly safe not everyone will drink it if it looks or tastes funny.
This is perhaps the single most critical factor in ensuring sustainable water and sanitation services. When a community understands its own need and engages in the planning, management and monitoring of services, they are dramatically more likely to achieve long-lasting change. Living Water staff members help community leaders assess local demand, mobilize local resources and get community members involved. Regular service visits provide follow-up and continue to support communities in their management of services over time.
Just a few key hygiene behaviors can multiply the benefit of safe water. Explaining the value of good hygiene is not enough; it is important to facilitate activities that help water users discover for themselves how they can improve their choices about hygiene and sanitation behaviors. Every Living Water program addresses topics like hand washing with soap at critical times, water transportation and storage, and disease transmission.
It is our goal for every encounter with a community to bear witness to the person of Jesus Christ. Partnership with local churches is a major part of our work, along with a focus on using appropriate methods of sharing the gospel—since many of people in our program areas can’t or don’t read, we use oral disciple making methods as a core element of our strategy. All Living Water programs also incorporate a plan for pastoral care and discipleship of staff members, and a high standard of conduct that reflects our Christian commitment.
These are just a few of the minimum standards you can expect when you work with Living Water International. As new science emerges and the water sector continues to evolve, our standards will too. What will never change is our pursuit of excellence, and our desire for those we serve to experience living water.