How did you calculate the cost of my water project(s)?

Before we send funds to the field, we work with our local partners to craft a proposal that outlines the number and types of water projects, the people who will be served and where the projects will be built. This way, we know from the start how our partner intends to spend the money you raised or donated.

We stay in close communication with our partners throughout the 21 months it takes them to build and report back on the projects. When they’re finished, our partners send us the final details on communities, populations, and GPS coordinates. Then, our staff reviews and verifies the completed project reports and associated costs. We carry out a financial reconciliation and calculate the cost-per-project.

Our water project costs can be broken down into hardware and software:


The physical materials used to build projects, such as pipes, cement, hand pumps, etc.

Sometimes we pipe water down from remote mountain springs. Other times, we team up with a community to dig a well by hand in the center of the village. To find the hardware cost of your project, we add up all the material costs of that type of technology and then divide by the number of projects we funded in that period of time.


Building a water project is one thing, but maintaining a project over time is an essential part of each charity: water project too. This is what we call the “software” of a water project:

Training: Managing the water project includes maintenance costs, community mobilization, and establishment of water committees.  Our partners also engage with communities to promote the use of latrines.  Another thing that is crucial in these communities is hygiene training, which includes hand washing, disinfection, and safe water storage.

Reporting: Every so often, we replenish our partners’ reporting materials so we can make sure the data we get from them is accurate and collected efficiently. This means buying new GPS devices and simple digital cameras, as well as covering the travel costs to get to each project. We divide these costs out, so your project might include small amounts for reporting needs.

Labor: The success of our projects requires the expertise, attention, and labor of more than 1,600 in-country staff around the world.

Skilled masons, engineers, geologists, hydrogeologists, drillers, and drivers work together to implement charity: water projects. While a fair wage for local staff is often a fraction of what we’d expect someone to earn working in the U.S., we do pro-rate local labor costs across water projects and we account for part of their total software costs.

Rest assured, true to our 100% model, we never use your funds to pay the charity: water staff in New York (or our flights to the field).

*Keep in mind, costs can greatly vary across time, region and water project technology. For example, your hand-dug well may cost the same as another fundraiser’s hand-dug well built in the same period of time in the same country – although the number of people served may be different. But it won’t cost the same as a spring protection system, drilled well, or a rainwater catchment system because these technologies each have their own costs. And it won’t cost exactly the same as a hand-dug well that was built by a different partner, in a different country, or in a different timeframe.

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