Who We Are
The Global Water Alliance (GWA) of Philadelphia, formally the Philadelphia Global Water Initiative (PGWI), was founded in 2006 by a group of Philadelphians who shared a keen interest in helping developing countries obtain access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene services known as WASH. The founders included students and professors from the University of Pennsylvania, NGOs from the Philadelphia area, businesses and other academic leaders, foremost, Stan Laskowski who, upon returning from the World Water Forum in Mexico City that year, felt compelled to assist with enabling the United Nations Millennium Development Goals — now the UN Sustainable Development Goals — in whatever way possible.
Since its founding, many individuals and organizations have joined our effort, creating a true alliance, a 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 water improvement.
As professionals across many spectrums, GWA members are engaged in services overseas, most often in collaboration with field partners in Cameroon, India, Kenya, Afghanistan, Haiti, Colombia, Mali, The Philippines, Mexico, Guatemala, Afghanistan, Honduras, Columbia, and Sri Lanka, among others.
In addition to field work, GWA works to bring awareness to businesses and political leaders in Philadelphia and beyond regarding the world water situation and the ways we are all connected through water by engaging in education regarding Global WASH issues through developing curricula for undergrad and grad courses; developing educational materials for use in high schools and colleges; participating in guest lectures and workshops; and provide engineering expertise for water-related projects while GWA’s strong educational component provides 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; and the City of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Water Works which is widely recognized as a leading educator of young students.
GWA is unusual and unique based on the extent to which various sectors — academia, business, government, and NGOs — work together to provide inter-disciplinary solutions, including experts in on-the-ground project management, science, engineering, community development, public health, financing, and other fields to build WASH projects in developing countries. Our fieldwork depends on funds available and the collaboration of other entities in our network. While not excluding WASH in cities, our fieldwork tends to be in more rural and peri-urban settings, where scale, population dynamics, and capacity are major variables in project and program development.
In addition to supporting members of the GWA network with finding expertise and resources for in-country projects, every year GWA organizes a conference around a particular WASH-related issue, gathering speakers and panelists from the United Nations, USAID, USEPA, FAO and other leading environmental groups, businesses, universities, and organizations abroad. To further student education, GWA member organizations also provide experiences to students in developing countries and at international conferences.
GWA looks forward to the future as its members continue to address the world’s water challenges. We look forward to doing our part in helping people in developing countries meet the challenges of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
At GWA, our passion for water and WASH drives us. We have developed a holistic, multi-disciplinary and multi-faceted approach to WASH, understanding the many needs for water, from health and survival to agricultural, commercial and recreational use, and the secular trends toward commodification of water and water systems. Each day, people in developing countries die from lack of clean water and poor sanitation and hygiene practices. These deaths are preventable with the proper management focus, financing, and training of local leaders. GWA is here to help reach that that goal.
Above: Kusum Athukorala, meets with then-President Stan Laskowski and University of Pennsylvania students at a GWA-funded school in Sri Lanka. Ms. Athukorala is a global leader on issues of water and gender.
Above: Then-President Stan Laskowski meet with Sri Lanka academics to discuss partnerships
Above: University of Pennsylvania students Caroline D’Angelo and Dakota Dobyns meeting with students in India. Ms. D’Angelo and Ms. Dobyns, inspired by Kusum Athukorala [Sri Lanka] and others founded the wh2o Journal on water and gender upon their return to the USA.s