Water 1st International 


People living in extreme poverty have many needs, but we believe water comes first. Water and sanitation projects are the foundation on which strong communities are built. Water 1st works through local partner organizations in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and Honduras to provide lasting, effective solutions to water supply and sanitation needs. Participating communities experience substantial health benefits and have more time, energy, and resources to devote to other needs and economic opportunities.

Mission Statement
Water 1st International's mission is to serve people in the poorest communities in the world as they implement community-managed projects that integrate water supply, sanitation, and health education. Water 1st unites people to fight this worldwide, silent catastrophe. We believe the global water crisis will be solved when we build a community of concerned individuals, and mobilize them to take simple, effective actions.
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Water 1st International
1904 3rd Ave 
(206) 297-3024 

Marla Smith-Nilson 
Executive Director 


Water 1st International Programs

Water 1st implements projects in the urban slums of Dhaka, Chittagong, and Khulna, Bangladesh's largest cities. In 2014, our partner will complete 200 water systems serving 17,000 individuals and 125 community toilets serving 6,000.

Water 1st works in the rural, agricultural communities of Oromia, Ethiopia, where access to safe water is an acute issue. Our partner designs complex, piped water-supply systems and trains the beneficiary communities to manage and operate the systems in a sustainable fashion. Community members learn critical hygiene practices. Use of hygienic latrines is increased from less than 20% to more than 80%. Health benefits and labor savings resulting from these projects are astounding and life-changing. Our project in 2014 will serve 3,500 people in the community of Dawo Kara.

Our partner organization in Honduras designs piped water-supply systems that bring safe water to each household in a community. Households also construct highly effective pour-flush toilets. Two members of every household receive hygiene education. A local water committee is trained and equipped to manage the water system in perpetuity. In 2014 Water 1st will support the Los Limones project, serving 360 people, the San Sebastian project, serving 150 people, and the La Virtud project, which will fund the expansion of an existing system to provide service to outlying households that don't have water service.

Recent Successes and Current Challenges

The extraordinary success of Water 1st projects is attributable to the talents of our local partner organizations. Water 1st identifies and funds partners that have developed highly effective, regionally-specific approaches to the water and sanitation crisis. Our partners utilize their cultural and technical expertise to engage community members and create a strong partnership to address the profound health and labor impacts that lack of access to safe water and sanitation impose upon communities.

2013 marked the completion of a 5-year contract with our partner in Bangladesh to provide access to water, toilets, and hygiene education to urban slum residents in Dhaka and Chittagong. An investment of $1.2 million over 5 years resulted in the completion of projects serving 60,000 people. In neighborhoods where only 25% of the population had access to safe water and 20% had access to a clean toilet, access to water and toilets increased to 70%. With such high achievement of target outcomes, Water 1st signed a new 5-year contract with our partner to expand the program into neighboring slums and into a third city, Khulna. The new goal is to reach 100,000 people in the next 5 years.


Grant History with The Seattle Foundation:

Grants Awarded through The Seattle Foundation Grantmaking Program:

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