Water. We use it to water our lawns, make our coffee, and wash our hands, but what most of us in the United States take for granted is a difficult-to-access and valuable commodity for nearly a third of people on the planet. In fact, 1.7 billion people do not have access to a toilet and 771 million have no clean water source near their homes. The challenge of accessing clean water is responsible for the deaths of nearly 1 million people each year, which means the death of a child every two minutes, and fuels extreme poverty and spreads disease.
Oscar-winning actor, producer, and screenwriter Matt Damon, and former civil and environmental engineer-turned-global water and sanitation expert Gary White are working to solve the global water crisis. Damon was first introduced to this crisis during a visit to rural Zambia in 2006, which was arranged by Bono’s DATA organization (Debt AIDS Trade Africa). In 2008, he met water advocate Gary White at a Clinton Foundation event and they decided to combine their efforts in a single non-profit organization focused on helping people obtain clean and safe water.
Today, Damon and White’s nonprofit Water.org has enabled more than 48 million people in 13 countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America to access clean water and sanitation. In partnership with 149 organizations around the world, they have mobilized more than $3.8 billion in capital. This money is used to support small, affordable loans that provide people with the resources to build the basic infrastructure they need to get safe water in their homes. The fascinating story of their mission to bring safe water to millions is shared in their new book, The Worth of Water: Our Story of Chasing Solutions to the World’s Greatest Challenge. Please join us as Matt Damon and Gary White take us along on their journey to uncover solutions, overcome challenges, raise capital, and innovate a brand-new model for solving the world’s water crisis.
About Gary White
Gary is a leading advisor in the water and sanitation space, counseling organizations such as the Skoll Foundation, PepsiCo Foundation, IKEA Foundation, and the Caterpillar Foundation on responses to the global water crisis. Gary is a founding board member of the Millennium Water Alliance and Water Advocates.
Gary was selected as a Skoll Foundation Social Entrepreneur in 2009 and a Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur in 2012. In 2011, he was named to the TIME 100 list of the world’s most influential people. In 2014 he was named to the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Water. In 2017, Gary was awarded the Forbes 400 Lifetime Achievement Award for Social Entrepreneurship.
Gary’s educational credentials include three degrees in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Missouri University of Science & Technology.
About Matt Damon
Academy Award winner Matt Damon is an actor, screenwriter, producer, and humanitarian, who has garnered international acclaim for his work both on- and off-screen.
Inspired during international travel with his family throughout Mexico and Guatemala as a youth, Matt has long been devoted to environmental and social issues. Learning about the immense challenges of accessing safe water and sanitation in Sub-Saharan Africa, Matt was inspired to create the H20 Africa Foundation. In 2009, he teamed up with Gary White to merge their organizations and launch Water.org, and in 2017, to create WaterEquity.
For his work with Water.org, Matt and WaterEquity co-founder Gary White were recognized among TIME’s 100 most influential people in the world. He also received the Crystal Award from the World Economic Forum and the Environmental Media Award from The Environmental Media Association. Matt has become one of the world’s experts on water and sanitation issues through a decade of participation in his organizations’ work, including site visits to multiple countries, strategy development, advocacy, and engagement with institutions such as the World Bank and the World Economic Forum.