The Global Water Alliance (GWA) of Philadelphia started as the Philadelphia Global Water Initiative (PGWI), founded in 2006 by a group of individuals from the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania [USA] area who were interested in helping developing countries obtain access to safe drinking water and sanitation/hygiene services. These founders included students and professors from the University of Pennsylvania, NGOs from the Philadelphia area, businesses and other academic leaders.
Since its founding many additional people and organizations have joined the organization and in 2013 PGWI changed its name to the Global Water Alliance. The UN Millennium Development Goals (now replaced by the UN Sustainable Development Goals) have provided GWA with an over-arching “north star” to guide its efforts.
GWA is truly an alliance (or network) of like-minded people and organizations, each with its own focus, priorities, and management style. GWA provides a platform for these organizations to exchange ideas, assist each other, and support the global goals for improvement. It is driven by the knowledge that numerous people in developing countries die each day from lack of clean water and poor sanitation/ hygiene practices. These deaths are preventable to a very large extent with the proper management focus, financing, and training of the local leaders.
GWA is unusual, and perhaps unique, based on the extent to which various sectors (academia, business, government, and NGOs) work together to provide inter-disciplinary solutions. It can provide expertise from experts in on-the-ground project management, science, engineering, community development, public health, financing, and other fields. Members of GWA have conducted water, sanitation, and hygiene [WASH] projects in many countries including India, Mali, Kenya, The Philippines, Mexico, Cameroon, Guatemala, Afghanistan, Haiti, Honduras, Columbia, Sri Lanka, and others.
In addition to supporting members of the GWA network with finding expertise and resources for in-country projects, GWA also has a strong educational component and its members provide water-related education at many levels. For example, GWA Board members teach WASH-related courses at the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University and Temple University; the City of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Water Works is widely recognized as a leading educator of young students.
Each year GWA has a conference related to a particular WASH-related issues. Key speakers and panelists at these conferences typically come from the United Nations, USAID, USEPA, leading environmental groups, businesses, universities, and organizations abroad. GWA member organizations also provide experiences to students in developing countries and at international conferences.
GWA and its members will continue to evolve in addressing the world’s water challenges and looks forward to doing its part in helping people in developing countries meet the challenges of the UN Sustainable Development Goals between now and the year 2030.