The U.S. Can Address Global Water Shortages by Investing in Private Business

Water is life. We hear this often but in America, having access to clean water is something we take for granted. Around the world, about one-third of the population lacks access to safely-managed sources of water.I have seen firsthand how scarce clean water is in the developing world as my family and I spent several summers volunteering with an orphanage and school in Lusaka, Zambia. In August, when I was appointed and confirmed to by the U.S. Senate to head the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, I recognized that this longstanding global problem could benefit from OPIC's innovative approach to investment in development.OPIC is the U.S. government's development finance institution, an agency that supports development around the world through investment rather than aid. It's a self-sustaining business model, which means we operate at no cost to the American taxpayers. By partnering with private investors, OPIC has helped build a major desalination facility in Algeria, a pipeline that transports clean water to Amman, Jordan, and water wells in Ghana and Kenya.Now we're supporting projects to help more people access safe water and sanitation in ways that are both affordable and convenient. This week OPIC committed a loan to support WaterHealth India, a business that is expanding access to safe water for millions of Indians. WaterHealth builds small plants that purify water on site and sell it for a fraction of the price of bottled water. These kiosks are being installed in railway stations, shopping malls and other highly trafficked places, addressing a vast demand with a user-friendly service.Last year when I visited India, I saw crowds of people flock to these water distribution stations, fill up reusable bottles, and then go about their lives. Collecting water had become just a single task in the course of a day, not an all-consuming chore. With the support of OPIC financing, WaterHealth will expand its operation to reach millions more people.  Continue reading...

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