The Desert Research Institute became an autonomous division of the Nevada System of Higher Education back in 1969. Prior to that, it was a smallish research division in the Nevada System. In those early days, DRI focused on the environmental management of Nevada’s desert landscape, but has since shifted its emphasis to global environmental issues.
DRI is pretty good-sized, with over 550 employees; it has a hand in 300 global research projects, but it hasn’t really made a big splash in the global water and sanitation field. All of that may change with the announcement of its collaboration with WaterAid, Water for People, and World Vision in the DRI Sustainable Water Initiative.
Collectively, the three big water groups teaming up with DRI have ongoing WASH projects in over 41 countries. WaterAid has helped over 21 million people gain access to safe water; Water for People raised over $14 million to support its “Everyone Forever” campaign; and World Vision’s WASH programs reach approximately 1 million people annually.
There’s no word on how much each organization is putting in financially, only that “two long-time DRI Foundation leaders” have offered a “generous” challenge grant to support faculty and students working on WASH issues and all funding will go toward the direct support of the initiative's initial goals:
- The provision of safe drinking water and basic sanitation
- Creating WASH education materials for women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa
- Implement WASH education programs for women in girls in sub-Saharan Africa
- WASH staff training
- Water research
- Supporting sustainable and scalable WASH projects in developing countries
As far as the decision to aim the initiative at women and girls goes, it’s no secret the females are disproportionately affected by the lack of access to water, sanitation, and hygiene. The issues related to this lack of access are numerous, beginning with the fact that females are largely responsible for the collection of water for their families, often traveling for hours each day for that purpose, which prevents them from pursuing other activities including earning an income and going to school.
Dr. Stephen Wells, DRI President spoke of the initiative’s goals, stating:
By raising support to provide women throughout these developing countries with access to adequate water sources and access to training we will ensure their family’s well-being and allow them more time to contribute to their villages.
Global Impact, another big name in the NGO community will help manage and raise awareness for the initiative.