Our implementing partner, DigDeep, identified Appalachia as one of the hot spots in America in which water access remains a critical issue. Communities in parts of rural Appalachia face three key water challenges: lack of household water access, poor water quality, and lack of wastewater services. Appalachia spans 420 counties across 13 states, from southern New York to northern Alabama, and is home to approximately 25 million residents. According to the Economic Innovation Group’s Distressed Community Index, McDowell County in West Virginia has the highest level of distress of any county in the United States, with an index value of 100 on a scale of 0 (most prosperous) to 100 (most distressed). One of 55 counties in West Virginia, McDowell County has a primarily rural population of approximately 18,000.
McDowell County has dealt with inadequate, inconsistent and non-existent water access for years. As coal companies that historically paid for and operated town water systems left the area, towns are left with aging infrastructure that is breaking down. Many homes in McDowell County have never had access to safe running water, but today the number of families who have lost their previously secure access to water is growing. In 2019, DigDeep partnered with the Five Loaves & Two Fishes Food Bank (serving McDowell County, WV) to provide clean drinking water for the hundreds of families in need of not only food, but also clean water. Now, DigDeep is continuing to increase water access for the region by partnering with local public service districts, nonprofits, communities and government agencies to identify communities with the most urgent water needs and provide solutions that fit the resources and unique situations of each community. Working with McDowell County Public Service District (PSD), DigDeep identified shovel-ready projects. These projects lack the funding to connect homes to PSD water pipelines or impose cost-prohibitive burdens on homeowners, forcing people to get skipped over or to risk leaks and burst pipes from their existing pipes which may be up to 100 years old. In addition to carrying out meter-to-home water line replacement for up to 400 homes with aged pipelines (starting with 150 homes in 2021, Phase 1 of the project), DigDeep is also partnering with Coalfield Development, which trains unemployed people in Appalachia in modern workforce skills.
Our work in Appalachia has received national attention and praise from the Washington Post, NBC Nightly News, and CBS. Our plans for areas experiencing water poverty in Appalachia are ambitious. We are seeking partners to join us in this work and help us to meet our fundraising goal. Funds raised will be used for piping water into the homes we’ve identified in Welch, WV.
At DigDeep, we believe that having clean, running water is a human right and we won’t stop until every American home has it. We are grateful that H2O for Life has joined us in making this vision a reality!
H2O for Life is not a WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) project implementer. We have partnerships with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) implementing WASH in Schools projects around the world. Our NGO partners match funds needed for each school project. We also have a generous donor that provides us with an interest-free loan that, along with matching funds, allows for many projects to be started or possibly even completed before total funds have been raised. In rare situations we reserve the right to reallocate funds to alternate project(s).