North America, Water, Water for People

Every year on this day, Imagine a Day Without Water, I reflect on my experience as a junior engineer living in Lesotho and Botswana designing water systems in rural villages. At the time, I was initially surprised that this did not mean putting taps in homes, but a communal tap for many households and animals to use. However, even this was great improvement over their current source of water – the local polluted stream.

That was the first time I was exposed to the reality of just how many people around the world don’t have access to safe drinking water. It is such a critical resource that we take for granted every day. Without water, we couldn’t wash our hands or dispose of waste. In fact, how we have been able to manage through a global pandemic is largely dependent on having access to clean water.

Since then, I have continued to support communities in developing countries. When I moved to the U.S. in 1991, I joined the Wisconsin Committee for Water for People and went on their first trip to Guatemala. Our assignment was to review and determine how to fix an existing water system that had stopped working only a few weeks after being installed. This demonstrated to me that for a community to have a sustainable water system, not only do they need the support to design and install it, but they also need training and funding for long term operation and maintenance.

AECOM’s Partnership with Water For People

Water For People is a key partner for AECOM because their mission aligns with our vision: a world where infrastructure creates opportunity for everyone – uplifting communities, improving access and sustaining our planet. Today, I represent our organization in Water For People’s Leadership Council alongside the world’s leading professional engineering firms. AECOM and our people have partnered with Water For People for more than 11 years, raising over $1 million through direct contributions, fundraising activities and volunteerism.

Water For People’s approach of “Everyone, forever” speaks to the critical sustainability component of water systems for communities in need. They partner with local governments, businesses and individuals where resources matter most to help maintain water systems. You can see their progress here.

AECOM provides the opportunity to donate to Water For People through a dedicated website as well as through charitable salary deductions in Canada and the US. It is my hope that for today, as we Imagine a Day Without Water, we take a moment to reflect on how having this critical resource enables us to live and give back to communities in need.

Richard Hope

Originally published Oct 21, 2021

Author: Richard Hope

Richard Hope is the chief technology officer for AECOM's Water business in North America. He is based out of Wisconsin.