Our history

Image: WaterAid/Nyani Quarmyne/Panos

The Thirsty Third World Conference brings members of the UK water industry together. They decide to unite, to reach the millions of people living without clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene.


WaterAid is officially established on July 21, 1981. Our first projects start in Zambia and Sri Lanka.


We’re working with local partners in ten countries.


Your support has helped us to reach 350,000 people. 


Extreme drought-hit East Africa and WaterAid began work in both Ethiopia and Dodoma Region of Tanzania. WaterAid's model of partnership was shaped in Tanzania by a collaboration of known as WAMMA between WaterAid and water engineers, and hygiene and education staff in the Dodoma Local Government.



We expand our footprint in South Asia with work commencing in Bangladesh, Nepal and India


HM King Charles, then The Prince of Wales, becomes our first president and is taken to see WaterAid projects in Nepal. 


We fund the Hitosa Gravity Scheme, the largest single water supply scheme in Ethiopia, reaching 50,000 people.


We started working in Pakistan working with remote, rural communities in the North West Frontier Province, helping local residents gain access to clean water and sanitation. 


We begin work on our 1,000th project! We also agree to fund the Hitosa Gravity Scheme in Ethiopia. The Hitosa scheme is the largest single water supply scheme implemented in Ethiopia at this time, reaching 50,000 people.


We become one of Glastonbury Festival's chosen charities, along with Oxfam and Greenpeace.


We published our first advocacy report, titled, Mega-slums: the coming sanitary crisis.


WaterAid was awarded the prestigious Stockholm Water Prize, including a grant of 150,000.


Thanks to amazing people like you and our partners around the world, we've enabled over six million people to build a better life.  


The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) aim to halve the number of people living without clean water by 2015.


Alongside other groups, we successfully lobby to get sanitation added to the list of MDGs.


The UN declares clean water a human right.


We're now working in 15 countries.


WaterAid becomes a global organisation, welcoming Australia and the Americas as members.


The UN declares an International Year of Sanitation. With toilets still a neglected topic, we address the UN commission for sustainable development, highlighting their importance.


WaterAid Sweden is founded.


We've reached 13.4 million people with clean water and 8.1 million with decent toilets.


Access to decent toilets is declared a human right.


Work began in Nicaragua, our first foray into Central America. Our program there focuses on the isolated north Caribbean region. Home to many indigenous people, it is largely cut off from the rest of the country by raging rivers, rainforest, and extremely difficult road condition and is one of the most deprived parts of Nicaragua. 


Your support for our Big Dig appeal raises over $2.6 million for our work in rural Malawi, bringing clean water, toilets and hygiene to more than 134,000 people.


WaterAid Japan is founded. We also join forces with charity WaterCan, who go on to become WaterAid Canada.


In 2014, at the meeting of the Global Sanitation and Water for All partnership, we helped influence 20 governments to commit to achieving universal access to water and sanitation by 2030 and many others to commit to ending open defecation. 


In May, we launch an ambitious new global strategy to reach everyone, everywhere with clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene.


WaterAid India celebrate becoming a WaterAid member.


Our supporters raise an astonishing $6,731,023 for our Deliver Life appeal. With many gifts matched by the UK Government, it’s enough to reach over 120,000 moms and their families with clean water.


WaterAid programs pivoted to meet the new needs that emerged as the Covid-19 pandemic spread around the world. From public awareness campaigns to "WASH on wheels", our response varied from country to country. Learn more about our response here.


We've reached 28.5 million people with clean water, 28.8 million with decent toilets and 26 million with good hygiene, and we're only just getting started.


WaterAid celebrates the introduction of The Global WASH in Healthcare Facilities Act of 2023 in Congress, introduced by Representatives Grace Meng (D-NY), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Darin LaHood (R-IL).

Just $25 can help provide one person with access to clean water.

Tax-efficient ways to help

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400 million more

Not a typo - Read how we plan to reach 400 million more people with clean water, decent toilets and hygiene by 2032

How we work

Discover more about our work through our Ripple Effect magazine and related content