Evidence Action: Dispensers for Safe Water

Evidence Action

Safe Water Now

Dispensers for Safe Water distributes chlorine dispensers in low-income communities to treat water so that it’s safe to drink.

What problem is Dispensers for Safe Water working on?

According to Evidence Action, over 2 billion people lack access to water that is safe to drink, and unsafe water is responsible for more than 1.2 million deaths each year. Unsafe drinking water is a leading risk factor for infectious diseases, exacerbates malnutrition, and is the most common cause of diarrhoea — the world’s second-leading cause of child mortality.

This is a particular problem in poor rural areas, where people rely on open springs and shallow wells that are easily contaminated by human and animal waste. But according to the World Health Organization, treating water with diluted chlorine is a safe and effective way to improve water quality.

What does Dispensers for Safe Water do?

Evidence Action’s Dispensers for Safe Water (DSW) programme provides chlorine dispensers to low-income communities where drinking water is often contaminated. The adoption rate for use of community chlorine dispensers is much higher (60%) than individual chlorine packages to use at home (10%).

Between 2013 and 2021, Evidence Action estimates that it has distributed more than 28,000 dispensers in rural Africa, reached more than 4 million people, and prevented more than 1.3 million cases of childhood diarrhoea. Evidence Action estimates that it costs less than $1.50 USD to provide safe water for one person for one year.

To ensure that the dispensers are used, DSW engages with communities and each community appoints a "promoter" for the dispensers. The programme currently has more than 54,000 community volunteers fulfilling this role.

What information does Giving What We Can have about the cost-effectiveness of Dispensers for Safe Water?1.

For information about the cost-effectiveness of this intervention, see GiveWell’s 2022 grant report.

Please note that GWWC does not evaluate individual charities. Our recommendations are based on the research of third-party, impact-focused charity evaluators our research team has found to be particularly well-suited to help donors do the most good per dollar, according to their recent evaluator investigations. Our other supported programs are those that align with our charitable purpose — they are working on a high-impact problem and take a reasonably promising approach (based on publicly-available information).

At Giving What We Can, we focus on the effectiveness of an organisation's work -- what the organisation is actually doing and whether their programs are making a big difference. Some others in the charity recommendation space focus instead on the ratio of admin costs to program spending, part of what we’ve termed the “overhead myth.” See why overhead isn’t the full story and learn more about our approach to charity evaluation.