Closing the Water Access Gap: Behind the Impact Work of DigDeep

Closing the Water Access Gap: Behind the Impact Work of DigDeep

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Water is paramount for daily survival. Essential needs like daily hydrating and hygiene —all are impacted by the global water crisis. 

But the reality is water insecurity happens in our own backyards. Water issues affect communities in all 50 states, totaling more than 2 million people living in the U.S. without access to clean and safe drinking water.  

Our commitment to equitable water access has led us to support incredible organizations like DigDeep, a human rights organization working to bring clean, running water to families in the United States. 

DigDeep’s goal is to ensure safe, reliable, accessible, affordable, and non-discriminatory access to water and wastewater services for all people. 

Specifically, we’re supporting their work on the Appalachia Water Project, an initiative that began in 2020 in McDowell County, where 2/3 of the water systems are documented as the worst quality in the whole United States. AWP works with residents, local public service districts, engineers, and county and state officials to champion water and wastewater solutions in Appalachia. 

###INSIDE THE APPALACHIA WATER PROJECT: Clean Water to the Community 

A hundred years ago, McDowell County, West Virginia was one of the wealthiest communities in the nation. But today, 36% of the residents here live below the poverty line and don’t have access to clean, running water

There are many factors contributing to this serious decline; 100-year-old water pipes failing, contamination from local mines, as well as the collapse of the local economy. We're supporting DigDeep because of their commitment to provide water access as a critical first step toward protecting the health of our neighbors and changing the trajectory of their community and families. 

###AT A GLANCE: Those Without Running Water in the United States Experience*  

No running water and no working toilet for more than 2 million people in the U.S. costs the economy $8.58 billion (with a B) every year. But on an individual level: 

Mental Health Impacts: 

  • 71,000 additional cases of mental health conditions per year 

  • $183 million in additional medical bills per year  

  • $35 million in lost annual earnings due to depression

Time Lost From Hauling Water:  

  • 68.7 million work hours lost per year (232 work hours lost per adult) 

  • 11.5 million school hours lost per year (170 school hours lost per child) 

  • It costs the U.S. economy $846M in time lost hauling water

Money Spent On Bottled Water:  

  • $1,350 spent on bottled water per family, per year

 *Reference: Draining: The Economic Impact of America’s Hidden Water Crisis (2022)

##Running Water Springs New Life: Part of the Solution 

DigDeep has helped over 600 community members in Appalachia get connected to clean, running water and nearly 3,000 families nationwide across the Appalachia, Colonias and Navajo Water Projects. Some of these families are getting running water for the first time ever—and DigDeep is accomplishing all of this from within the local community. Local Project Managers guide their efforts, and the team directly serves their neighbors. Then, they work in tandem with local government and water utilities, ensuring sustainable, reliable solutions.

###“There could be a million different obstacles to get water to these homes...but the thing with DigDeep is, we don’t let that stop us. It’s not a catchphrase; it’s a relentless pursuit of getting people clean, reliable water.”—Eddie George, Community Relations Coordinator, AWP

AWP is working with the county to build a network of water lines and service connections that service more than 600 community members. “My experience with DigDeep has been wonderful,” community member Rosa, says. “When [they knocked on my door] asking if I wanted water, all I could say was oh yes!” With running water, it’s a step beyond merely survival. There is a clear goal to provide people dignity and an expansiveness to their life beyond wondering where this important source of life will come from tomorrow.  

The local team members, like McDowell County local, Eddie George, make DigDeep’s work especially inspiring. Eddie, who serves as the Community Relations Coordinator for AWP, grew up in McDowell County. Like most teens wanting to break free from their hometown, Eddie left at 17. After a few years, though, he missed the mountains and the resilient community of McDowell. But coming back, he saw the water issues that he’d witnessed affect his grandmother and other people close to him, with new eyes: “It’s devastating to see the mental, emotional, physical, and financial strain that this has on people you’re personally very close with, and to see that’s how I grew up and not much has changed. People shouldn’t live like this.” 

Now, he's part of the solution and using his skillset to help support the families he’s grown up alongside, through life-changing access to water. It’s a story that hits home for many in the region, even Eddie’s own family. His grandmother drove hours to collect water for drinking, cooking and showering—only receiving running water for the first time in her home at 70 years old. The majority of her lifetime was spent without accessible clean water. 

Partnering with DigDeep, more people are receiving the basic human need of clean and abundant water access here in the U.S. We are inspired to continue to share their stories to spark conversation and action. Stories like Geri, a community member who now has running water for the first time in her life: “Today having the water turned on is a blessing,” she says.  

“I felt like I found my calling in life, working with water infrastructure.” Eddie George says. “Because when you witness the emotions, on a personal level, and help bring water into someone’s home for the first time after they’ve been hauling water for quite some time and finally receiving that reliability. You can see all of the mental anguish leave, not to mention the financial burden as's a feeling I don't know if I can even articulate." 

To support their work and learn more about DigDeep and AWP, click here.

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