WaterStar: 33 Buckets

WaterstarThis is the latest in a series of posts highlighting people and organizations around the world embodying the ideals of the Clean and Conserve Education Program: making the world a safer and healthier place through water conservation and hygiene education. WaterStars will receive printed copies of Clean and Conserve books as well as enamel WaterStar pins to recognize their work. Anyone who has used the Clean and Conserve materials is eligible for consideration to be a WaterStar award winner. Submit your story to learn more.

33 Buckets logoFounded as a student organization at Arizona State University and later launched as an international nonprofit, 33 Buckets focuses on solving two major problems: That 1.8 billion people drink contaminated water, and that 40 percent of water projects ultimately fail. As student team member Zachary Kobza explained in a recent email interview, those failures happen because “it is not enough to simply dig a well or provide a water filter to a community”. One-off projects like that are vulnerable after the implementing group leaves, he adds. “The local community must be engaged and able to maintain their water system.”

Kobza says that 33 Buckets accomplishes their mission by “forming a strong, personal connection with each community”. The organization uses a “clean water franchise” model, with 33 Buckets providing the up-front funding and training for local leaders to oversee these franchises. The revenue created by the franchise covers maintenance and other ongoing costs, with the result being “a permanent, independent source of clean water for the community”.

Part of the connection-building process includes water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) education. Staff members in Peru have been using Clean and Conserve activities to work with the community. We asked Zachary to tell us more about how and why they are using Clean and Conserve:

Children in Occopato, Peru, learn about proper hand washing during a water festival event organized by 33 BucketsChildren in Occopato, Peru, learn about proper hand washing during a water festival event organized by 33 Buckets Project WET Foundation (PWF): How did 33 Buckets get into the work of educating people about water?

Zachary Kobza (ZK): The success of the 33 Buckets model depends on the personal connection made with the community, as well as their engagement and commitment. One key to getting a high level of engagement is to educate the community on water safety, hygiene, filtration, and disinfection. Many of these communities, through no fault of their own, have never had the opportunity to learn about the kind of water they are drinking and why it is unhealthy. After having a chance to learn about these issues, though, community leaders are eager for a change to cleaner water for the sake of their health and the health of their children. We have found that education is vital to a community's engagement in our water projects, as well as the health of the community.

Occopato students learn about germ transmission through a Clean and Conserve activity using glitterOccopato students learn about germ transmission through a Clean and Conserve activity using glitter PWF: Why did you decide to use Clean and Conserve to teach about water?

ZK: Because it had the most relevant activities that taught the most important information to the people here. Many members of these communities never learned the importance of hygiene, like washing your hands or using soap. Clean and Conserve had ways of teaching that information that we liked and adapted based on the community we were working with and the materials available.

PWF: What activities or resources have you found particularly useful and why?

33 Buckets use a water festival model with games and crafts to make learning hands on and fun33 Buckets used a water festival model with games and crafts to make learning hands on and fun ZK: The biggest inspiration for us from Project WET was the water festival model. We had decided to shift our educational method toward more of a festival feel with games and crafts to make it hands on and fun. We found and downloaded the Water Festival Guide and used it to set up our own water festival with activities and games relevant to these communities and the education they lacked. 

One activity we have specifically used is "Healthy Personal Hygiene", where glitter is used to represent germs and how they spread while the kids play hand games. This activity was a huge hit at the schools!

PWF: How do you see 33 Buckets using the materials in the future?

ZK: As we continue to grow to help more and more communities in South America and around the world, we definitely plan to continue using the "Water Festival" model. Our education days in each school were very successful, and we look forward to growing them even more!

The Clean and Conserve Education Program, developed through the partnership between the Project WET Foundation and Ecolab, includes lessons, activities and other learning resources for children and youth ages three through 18, as well as educators. Visit the Clean and Conserve page to learn more. Originally published in English, Clean and Conserve materials are also available in Mandarin, Spanish for MexicoGerman, French for Canada and Portuguese for Brazil (French and Portuguese materials are available for download from the English-language page).

Previous WaterStars Honorees:

Joseph Dabuo (Ghana) 

Ashley Satterfield (USA) 

Supriya Khound (India) 

Jamice Obianyo (USA) 

EECO Foundation (Pakistan) 

Beautiful Minds (Ethiopia) 

Doña Ana Mutual Domestic Water Consumers Association (USA) 

Ecolab’s E3 Group (USA)


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