Reworking communities, one drop of water at a time


World Water Day is an annual United Nations Observance, held on March22, focusing on the importance of freshwater. Access to water is a human right, yet, 2.2 billion people live without safely managed drinking water services. Water is also at the heart of adaptation to climate change, serving as the crucial link between the climate system, human society and the environment. 

This year’s theme for World Water Day is “Water for Peace,” which focuses on water’s vital role in creating a more stable and prosperous world.

As part of Cisco’s Purpose to Power and Inclusive Future for All, we invest in solutions that build resiliency for communities, individuals and natural ecosystems, including equitable access to clean and affordable drinking water.  

Cisco and the Cisco Foundation, through our cash grant programs and technology donations to nonprofit organizations, support organizations that are working to raise awareness of global water issues, increase access to safe drinking water, and protect this precious natural resource. It’s one example of how our social impact and environmental sustainability efforts come together in support of an inclusive future. In honor of World Water Day, we would like to shine a spotlight on four of these nonprofits – to learn more about them, please keep reading! 

A map of Australia with pink dots and other metrics
Australian educators interested in sustainability and water conservation using COOL.org

Cool.org has supported educators and parents with online, real-world, evidence-based education resources for 15 years.

With an emphasis on environmental sustainability, Cool weaves content from industry experts and scientific organizations to create real-world resources that empower students to address big environmental challenges.

Since 2019, Cisco has been instrumental in supporting Cool to ensure their platform and systems are best in class. This support has played a crucial role in the development of their new educator-customized platform, saving time for educators and ensuring access to exceptional resources for all educators globally.

Cool creates and supplies teaching resources about water – from the water cycle to marine biology, from hydropower to geothermal energy, from conservation and adaptations. These resources provide teachers with a myriad of opportunities to bring water into the classroom. Through engaging activities, students can explore the wonders of water through Cool resources and develop a profound appreciation for its role in sustaining all life on Earth.

A child with outstretched hands with drops of water falling
Photo courtesy of Join For Water

Join For Water changes lives by guaranteeing water for people and for nature. They operate in Benin, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Mali, Uganda, Ecuador and Peru. Their projects focus on drinking water, water for food production, sanitation, environmental management, and conscious water consumption in upper income countries.

Starting in 2020, Cisco provided several product grants of both hardware and subscriptions to Join For Water. Initially these grants consisted of five collaboration endpoints and supporting Webex subscription, which allowed for improved inter-office collaboration.  The most recent grant in 2023 provided a complete Meraki network solution, now installed in the Belgian office. Cisco is currently working with Join For Water and a Cisco partner to equip five of the remote offices with a similar Meraki network, allowing for a more secure and easy experience in managing their global network.

These donations have helped Join For Water reduce costs and CO2 emissions related to airplane travel. They have also enhanced connections between teams in Africa and South America that used to work separately from each other.

Join For Water says that Cisco support is contributing to their efforts to improve quality of life for 420,000 people over 5 years – most of them women. This includes enabling 67,000 people to get access to decent drinking water, 50,000 farmers to produce sufficient food through irrigated fields, and 7,000 people, mainly school children, to gain improved access to toilets. Join For Water also anticipates protecting and conserving 237,000 hectares of freshwater ecosystems during that five-year period (2022 through 2026).

A woman working on a water project wearing a blue shirt
Onsite work in Colombia

WaterAid transforms lives by improving access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in the world’s poorest communities. They work with local partners and influence decision-makers to maximize their impact.

With 40 years as an industry leader, WaterAid places special emphasis on evidence-based, sustainable solutions that help communities prosper in the long term. They strengthen systems at the community and the national level. WaterAid has reached 29 million people with clean water, 29 million people with decent toilets and 28 million people with good hygiene.

WaterAid is working to transform the lives of people in rural La Guajira, Colombia, who are forced to drink untreated water, exposing them to a range of deadly diseases, microbiological contaminants, elevated salinity levels, and heavy metals.

Thanks to a Regional Solutions Grant from the Cisco Foundation in 2023, WaterAid rolled out the first mobile water quality lab in La Guajira. By analyzing water quality data, communities can identify maintenance and repair needs, ensuring the longevity and effectiveness of water systems. Now there are fewer gastrointestinal illnesses, cases of dehydration, and related fatalities. The partnership has been key to multiplying the impact of a large-scale WASH investment project recently launched by WaterAid and Colombia’s Ministry of Housing.

One Acre Fund supports smallholder farmers in nine countries across sub-Saharan Africa in gaining the knowledge and means to achieve big harvests, support healthy families, and cultivate rich soil. One Acre Fund is now elevating their farmer-facing model with technology and is pursuing a remote-sensing strategy to offer farmers data-driven recommendations that will improve their farm yields and offer critical climate protection. This guidance may include an alert for when a major shock like a flood is coming.

Providing accurate flood prediction is crucial because in recent years, heavy seasonal rains in East Africa have increasingly led to devastating floods. Poor land management practices and extreme droughts can lead to erosion and dry soil, reducing the land’s ability to absorb water and increasing surface runoff during heavy rains. For farmers that are heavily reliant on rain-fed agriculture, flooding can lead to crop destruction, loss of livestock, damage to infrastructure such as irrigation systems and roads, and displacement of local communities, all of which can pose threats to livelihoods and food security in the region.

In many countries in the Global North, flood maps are usually made using stream gauges that track rising water levels, which are not readily available in East Africa due to limited financial resources and poor infrastructure. Cisco Foundation supports One Acre Fund’s pilot program to develop remote sensing capabilities through analysis of data from modeling programs and on-the-ground validation.

Learn more about how Cisco and the Cisco Foundation support nonprofit organizations on our ESG Reporting Hub.

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