WaterAid ice sculptures by the Thames show fragility of water and the threat posed by climate change

Posted by
Anna France Williams
13 September 2021
WaterAid created striking ice sculptures of people collecting water to show the fragility of water and the threat posed by climate change.  Potters Fields, London
Image: WaterAid/ Oliver Dixon

Today, WaterAid unveiled four striking ice sculptures featuring people from around the world collecting water, to highlight how climate change is causing fragile water sources to disappear for vulnerable communities.

The international organisation created the ice figures on the banks of the Thames to share the realities of those living on the frontlines of climate change as part of its campaign, Our Climate Fight, ahead of the UN General Assembly this month and COP26, the UN’s global climate conference this November.  

Actor Dougray Scott is supporting the campaign and joined WaterAid in London to encourage the public to add their name to its open letter urging the UK Government to help vulnerable communities get a reliable source of water, so they can protect themselves from the destructive effects of climate change.    

The sculptures are based on people from Mali, Burkina Faso, India and Colombia who are among the one in ten globally with no clean water close to home, leaving them more susceptible to disease and having a damaging impact on education and livelihoods.  

Climate change is making it even harder for many to get clean water. Longer droughts dry up springs and wells, and more frequent flooding pollutes poorly protected water supplies. By 2040, climate change could make water perilously scarce for 1 in 4 children.* A reliable source of clean water that keeps flowing whatever the weather helps people living on the frontlines of climate change to adapt and build a better future. 

WaterAid worked with London-based ice artists, The Icebox, to create the beautiful ice sculptures, that draw attention to the need to help people adapt to the climate emergency. As the ice began to melt, it highlighted the fragility of water and the consequences of global complacency. 

François, a farmer and father-of-three from Burkina Faso, was one of the people whose story was brought to life through the ice. The boreholes and wells in his village have started drying up because of rising temperatures.  

François, 31, said: 

“You have to juggle with the little water you have or simply give up certain needs due to lack of water.” 

François’ story features in the charity’s open letter, which was written by WaterAid’s Basile Ouedraogo from Burkina Faso and is nearing 10,000 signatures from celebrities, leading cross-party politicians and members of the public*. The letter will be presented to Boris Johnson and Liz Truss ahead of COP26 urging them to invest a third of the UK’s committed international climate funding in locally-led adaptation projects, to help vulnerable communities get a reliable source of water, so they can protect themselves against the impacts of climate change. 

Actor and WaterAid Ambassador Dougray Scott (Ripley’s Game, Enigma, My Week with Marilyn, Mission Impossible II, The Women in White) signed an ice wall in London’s Potter’s Fields as a visual commitment to the climate fight. He said:  

“WaterAid’s ice sculptures highlight the fragility of water and the threat posed by climate change. Each beautiful ice figure represents someone who doesn’t have clean water close to home and who faces an uncertain future as extreme weather will make it even harder for them to access this basic human right.  

“Everyone should have a reliable supply of water that keeps flowing through flood, drought and natural disasters. I saw the difference it makes to people’s lives while visiting Mozambique with WaterAid; families are healthier, children have more time for school and their parents can earn a living. I’m supporting Our Climate Fight to help get clean water to people living in poverty so they can better withstand the impacts of climate change. Please join us and help communities stay safe and healthy, whatever tomorrow brings.”  

Only 5% of total global climate funding is spent helping countries adapt to the climate emergency, and much of that money is not invested in the communities most impacted by climate change.i  Some of the most climate-vulnerable countries receive only $1 per person per year for water yet protecting water and sanitation services from extreme weather is highly cost-effective. For every $1 spent upgrading flood-resistant infrastructure, $62 is saved in flood restoration costs.ii  

Tim Wainwright, Chief Executive for WaterAid, said: 

“The climate crisis is a water crisis, and across the world, millions of families who struggle to access essentials like clean water face an increasingly uncertain future because of climate change.  

“For COP26 to be a success, the Prime Minister must lead rich nations in ensuring more finance goes to help the world’s poorest climate-vulnerable communities. If everyone everywhere has a reliable supply of clean water, they can adapt and build resilience to extreme weather so they can stay healthy and thrive, whatever tomorrow brings.” 

Sign WaterAid’s open letter:  www.wateraid.org/climatefight 


For more information, please contact: 

Anna France-Williams, Interim PR Manager, [email protected] or Laura Crowley, Interim Global Head of Media [email protected].  

Or call our after-hours press line on +44 (0)7887 521 552, or email [email protected]

Notes to Editors: 

The ice sculptures are based on the following people: Susmita, 22, from India; Aminata, 11, from Mali; François, 31, from Burkina Faso and Jose, 8, from Colombia. 

Dougray Scott 

Scottish actor and WaterAid Ambassador Dougray Scott has starred in Ripley’s Game, Enigma, My Week with Marilyn, Mission Impossible II, and The Women in White. He has recently announced he will be leaving his role as Batwoman’s father in the Arrowverse series. Dougray has just finished filming Irvine Welsh’s Crime, which will launch later this year on BritBox. Dougray visited Mozambique with WaterAid in 2017 to see how lives can be transformed with clean water. 

The Ice Box 

The Icebox is the UK, Europe and one of the world's leading ice specialists, catering to the industry's Event and Catering Companies, PR and Marketing Agencies and London's leading Hotels, Restaurants and Bars. With 27 years experience, The Icebox has earned a reputation as a leading-edge ice supplier. 

WaterAid is working to make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere within a generation. The international not-for-profit organisation works in 28 countries to change the lives of the poorest and most marginalised people. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 27 million people with clean water and 27 million people with decent toilets. For more information, visit www.wateraid.org, follow @WaterAidUK or @WaterAidPress on Twitter, or find WaterAid UK on Facebook at www.facebook.com/wateraid

  • 771 million people in the world – one in ten – do not have clean water close to home.1 

  • *Half a billion children live in areas of extreme water stress, set to rise to 600 million by 2040. Water stress occurs when the demand for water exceeds the available amount during a certain period or when poor quality restricts its use.1 

  • 1.7 billion people in the world – more than one in five – do not have a decent toilet of their own.2  

  • Around 290,000 children under five die every year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation. That's more than 800 children a day, or one child every two minutes.3 

  • Every £1 invested in water and toilets returns an average of £4 in increased productivity.4 

  • Just £15 can provide one person with clean water.5 

*Signatories to the Open letter include:  

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Actor and Director), Aditi Mayer (Sustainable fashion activist), Amanda Mealing (Actor and WaterAid ambassador), Andy Green (Chair, WaterAid), Bonnie Wright (Actor and Activist), Caroline Lucas MP (former Leader and Co-leader, Green Party), Cel Spellman (Actor and Broadcaster), Baroness Chalker of Wallasey (former Minister of State for Overseas Development and Africa at the Foreign Office, Conservative and WaterAid Vice-President), Charlotte Harrington (Co-CEO, Belu), Chris Law MP (International Development Spokesperson, Scottish National Party), Dougray Scott (Actor and WaterAid Ambassador), Ellie Simmonds OBE (Paralympic swimmer and WaterAid ambassador), Freddy Fontannaz (Partner, Head of UK Residential PR, Knight Frank), Gemma Cairney (Radio and TV presenter), Dr. Guido Schmidt-Traub (Partner, Systemiq), Heather Watson (Professional tennis player), Héctor Bellerín (Professional footballer and Activist), Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (TV Chef, Food writer, and Broadcaster), Kulsum Rifa (Climate activist), Layla Moran MP, (International Development Spokesperson, Liberal Democrats), Lemn Sissay OBE (Poet and Playwright), Matt Tweedie (Group FD & Head of Business Services, Knight Frank), Melissa Hemsley (Chef and Author), Mitzi Jonelle Tan (Climate Activist), Nadiya Hussain MBE (Author, TV chef and WaterAid ambassador), Natalie Campbell (Co-CEO, Belu), Sir Richard Stilgoe and the Alchemy FoundationShekhar Kapur (Film director and Activist), Songhoy Blues (Malian band and WaterAid ambassadors), Tim Wainwright (Chief Executive, WaterAid), Thandiwe Newton OBE (Actor and Activist), Zaid Al-Qassab (Chief Marketing Officer, Channel 4)