Welcome to Classroom Europe!

Rick Steves Classroom Europe® is a free resource allowing teachers to share the best of European art, history, and culture with their students and fellow educators.

A Message from Rick  |  Frequently Asked Questions

 close
Playlist Under Construction: None. Add a video to get started!
Playlist Under Construction: None. Add a video to get started!
Add to Playlist

Water is Critical for Development

Guatemala

Water is fundamental to hygiene, health, and nutrition. But, for much of the world, access is a daily struggle, and women and children often have to walk for water.

Complete Video Script

Rising out of extreme poverty through development requires certain basics. Water is fundamental to hygiene, health, and nutrition. But, for much of the world, access to water is a daily struggle.

Hundreds of millions of people live in villages with no running water or well. They have to walk for their water. It's typically a job for women and children.

Here in Guatemala, laundry day without running water means these women have to leave their family, interrupt their farm work, and trek three hours to this dirty pond. Water is so heavy that the women wait for their clothes to partially dry before making the long slog home.

Development is incremental. These villagers have the relative convenience of public spigots in each neighborhood. They gather on certain days, at certain times, when water is released. For many, having a tap down the street running just a few hours a week is a blessing.

A vital step in development is building water infrastructure. This Ethiopian village got a well last year thanks to an American NGO whose mission is to do exactly that. Wells like these cost about $4,000. Today, with a neighborhood well, these people no longer need to walk hours a day to get their water.

Modern aid projects are not simply given to a community. Experience has taught development workers that locals who own these projects take better care of them. They work with the NGOs to build the projects. This pump is community owned. A locally elected committee manages it, and each family pays about a dollar a month to maintain it. With ownership comes responsibility and good stewardship.

Water infrastructure divides the poor from the extremely poor. Having to depend on river water means farmers and families are dependent on rain. River water may carry waterborne diseases. With safe water reliably available right in the village, there's better hygiene — families are sick less often, children have more time and energy for school and work, and the moms have more time and energy to nurture their children.