07 Nov 2018

A Market-Based Approach to Solving the World’s Water Crisis

At water.org, Jennifer Schorsch (MBA 1992) is bringing safe water and sanitation to the world through access to small loans.


Jennifer Tisdel Schorsch (MBA 1992) is president of Water.org, a Kansas City­–based nonprofit dedicated to bringing safe water and sanitation to the world through market-driven initiatives. In this interview she discusses the way the organization approaches financing solutions to the challenges.

“At Water.org, we are singularly focused on solving the global water crisis in our lifetime. There are about 844 million people every day who lack safe water and about 2.3 billion who lack access to adequate sanitation. The health and economic impacts, and impacts on dignity, are significant. What water.org has done that is perhaps distinct is try to very much focus on where the primary barriers are that exists between people and water and people and sanitation. And the biggest barrier that we've identified is capital.

“What Water.org has tried to do is take a market-based approach to solving the water crisis by enabling access to household-level financing. Today, Water.org has reached about 8 million people with access to safe water and sanitation. The primary areas that we serve include South Asia, Southeast Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The biggest need is in the country of India, where we've reached more than 3 1/2 million people alone.

“When you look at the solutions that are being brought to bear in solving the water crisis, there are many. And we need to have many different solutions with such a complex issue that will only get worse over time, if we don't act quickly. We feel that by harnessing market-driven solutions, by using a small amount of philanthropy to attract larger sources of capital, and by shifting the global discussion to how do we finance the crisis, we will solve the crisis much more quickly.

“So we try to position our solution as a complementary solution to government. And given that one of the most significant barriers for governments to achieve their objectives in water and sanitation is financing, we can bring a proven model to help accelerate progress within those countries. It is not OK that one in nine people do not have the ability to access a safe drink of water, and one in three people lack access to adequate sanitation. We can channel the opportunities that we've had, the insights that we've had, the relationships that we've forged, to solve one of these great societal issues.”

Editor’s note: As of October 2018, Water.org has now enabled access to water and sanitation for more than 14 million people, delivering more than $1 billion in loan capital to those living in poverty.

(Published November 2018)

Featured Alumni

Featured Alumni

Class of MBA 1992, Section E

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