Matt Damon on the Water for the World Act

On my trip with ONE to Zambia, I walked two miles with a 14-year-old girl to a well—the closest water source to her village. I asked if she wanted to stay in her village when she grew up, and her face exploded into a huge smile. The translator said, “she is being very shy…she says that she wants to move to big city, Lusaka, and that she wants to be a nurse.”

Women and girls, like the one I met in Zambia, bear most of the burden of lack of access to clean water and adequate sanitation. Women are more than twice as likely as men to be responsible for water collection, and on average, women in the developing world walk three and a half miles each day to collect water—time that could be spent in school or at work.

Right now there’s a bill, the Durbin-Corker Water for the World Act of 2009, that will enable us to help 100 million people gain access to clean water and sanitation by 2015. But it needs at least 15 more cosponsors to move forward. Join me in signing ONE’s petition and asking your senators to cosponsor this critical legislation.

Here’s the text of the petition:

Please cosponsor the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2009 (S. 624), and help provide 100 million people with first-time, sustainable access to clean water and sanitation by 2015.

Economically, water is one of the smartest poverty-fighting investments we can make. My friend Ben and I met with the World Bank and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) in Tanzania, and we saw how a lack of good water infrastructure is holding back businesses. We talked to Prosper Mbarewoai of Allied Chemicals, who estimated his detergent-production business is operating at only 60% capacity because he spends anywhere from two hours to an entire day just getting water.

The MCC in Tanzania is working to revamp the water treatment and supply infrastructure in two major cities, decreasing the risks of water-borne illness and enabling business productivity. In fact, every $1 spent on water and sanitation generates a return of $8 in saved time, increased productivity and reduced health costs in Africa.

Improving access to clean water and sanitation is also an investment in women, making possible the dreams of young girls in Zambia and beyond. To help make this change happen for her and 884 million others worldwide who live without clean water, please ask your senators to cosponsor the Water for the World Act.

-Matt Damon