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It's the vision, duh -- how innovative partnerships can inspire change around the world

For Americans, clean drinking water is something we take for granted. From water filtration systems to water pitcher filters to bottled water to even ice machines, it’s something that is just part of our everyday life. And that’s probably best illustrated by the fact that we waste an inordinate amount of it: 

While the rest of the world is trying to live on three gallons of water a day, that’s the amount older toilets use in just one flush; newer ones still use about one gallon. 

In total, it means nearly one-quarter of all of the drinkable water in U.S. homes is actually flushed down the toilet. It’s no surprise then that Americans use 127 percent more water than they did in the 1950s. Unfortunately the rest of the world is not so lucky to have that luxury.

This may feel like a distant global issue for the U.S. because, quite frankly, it doesn’t affect our everyday lives. But as global citizens and corporations with social consciences, this is an issue we cannot ignore. More children die from unclean drinking water than from HIV/AIDS and malaria combined, and this is why we’re rallying around it at this week’s Clinton Global Initiative with our Flash Flood for Good initiative, a social media effort at driving awareness around the issue.

More children die from unclean drinking water than from HIV/AIDS and malaria combined.

Flash Flood for Good aggregates the feeds of global leaders, NGOs, celebrities, private sector partners, corporate brands, and general consumers for 72-hours to raise awareness and money for clean drinking water. 

The ultimate goal is to reach enough people through Twitter and Facebook to share clean drinking water with one million kids for an entire year. It’s a way to give this cause a human face, especially for those that can afford to waste water without even realizing it.

An effort like Flash Flood for Good is just one example of the various partnerships around the world that are so critical to addressing major issues. Very often they are public-private partnerships that bring together entities that may not have worked together otherwise but have joined forces for the greater good and have committed to working and evolving together over time

Many of the world’s greatest woes are not solved over night; but instead, require tenacity, focus and long-term commitment to evolve and stick together even when the going gets tough.

In 1986, The Carter Center, led by former President Jimmy Carter, began to work on an eradication effort of guinea worm disease, caused by drinking contaminated water. At the time there were 3.5 million cases in 21 countries in Africa and Asia. 

For more than 25 years, the Center has worked tirelessly on this issue by providing technical and financial assistance to national Guinea work eradication programs in specific countries and then expanded to an international campaign, working with partners such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and many others. In 2012, there were 542 cases reported in four countries, a decline from 1,058 cases the year before, and a 99 percent decrease from the beginning of the program.

Merck has worked for more than 25 years with the World Health Organization to distribute a drug for river blindness in West and Central Africa, the Middle East and Central and South America. Such partnerships that are slowly changing the lives of millions of people around the world—and they need to grow.

Seven years ago P&G started a partnership with World Vision around a commitment around clear water and quantified it in 2010 to “Save One Life Every Hour” by the year 2020 through providing 2 billion liters of clean drinking water each year. 

Through distribution of P&G packets that purify water in developing countries, P&G, along with World Vision, has saved more than 32,000 lives and prevented 250 million days of illness across 71 countries. But this wasn’t easy with the most affected people in most rural areas relying on open sources of highly contaminated water often shared with livestock. 

In addition to accessing them, we also needed to find effective ways to educate them about the dangers of contaminated water and the need to treat their drinking water. Through our partnership, we have overcome these hurdles and have saved lives.

The challenges are tough, and the solutions are not easy, but the partnerships and the commitments are critical. 

As we observe this year’s Clinton Global Initiative, we have the proliferation of social media to open the propensity for partnership and collaboration like never before, and this is why we are introducing Flash Flood for Good to expand the realm of partnership beyond just companies and NGOs. 

We know this is no easy task, but we look forward to seeing and learning more from partnership and collaboration in years to come.  

Greg Allgood is Vice President of Water for World Vision.

Allison Tummon is P&G Children's Safe Drinking Water Manager.