Clean Water


Access to clean water is a fundamental human need that must be met if we expect to sustain progress toward ending poverty, ensuring access to education, and improving global health standards.

By the Numbers

  • Globally, 2 billion people use a drinking water source contaminated with feces. 1
  • 663 million people still lack access to improved drinking water sources.2
  • 159 million people still use surface water as their primary source of water.3

Global problems are personal problems

The complexity of global problems can make the consequences of those problems and potential solutions seem distant and impersonal. We’re not okay with that. We invite you to pursue a deeper understanding of the ways water shapes your life and the lives of others. We want you to become passionate about water - not because it matters for somebody, somewhere – but because it matters for you.

Personal problems need personal solutions

Engage with us to talk about the problem, to understand the problem from different perspectives, to identify and implement solutions. We want to work with and for you, because personal problems need and deserve personal solutions.

After one year of having a filter, families report greatly improved health and fewer visits to the health clinic.


Our current focus is in Rwanda. Sub-Saharan Africa is ranked as one of the world’s most underserved areas for access to clean water.

Rwanda, Africa

1°56.633′S 30°3.567′E

Rwanda is a poor, rural country located in south-central Africa. With 80% of its population struggling to make it by with mainly subsistence agriculture, the 1994 genocide decimated their already fragile economic base. Today, though making strides to regain their economic stability, the population below the poverty line remains at nearly 45%. Specifically, we work along the Nyabarongo River, serving 7 rural sectors that use the river and adjacent swamps as their main water source.

Gahanga Masaka Ntarama Mwogo Juru Rilima Gashora
Masaka, Rwanda

This district was selected as the initial place to begin our work in 2011 after a cholera outbreak killed nearly 500 people six years earlier. Though on the doorstep of the capital city, Maska is an underdeveloped rural area that was hit hard by the 1994 genocide. In 2013, we reached our goals in Masaka, by giving 15,710 people a decade or more of clean water through 1,082 slow-sand filters, 15 Rainwater Harvest Systems, and 7 SAM2 community filters. Ongoing visits to recipients attests that families are healthier and staying that way due to the constant clean water. Our certified volunteers from Masaka still help train new volunteers in neighboring districts.

Gahanga, Rwanda

We first met with the local committee in April of 2013 and by June we had trained 32 volunteers and begun filter distributions. Today, 21,710 people have access to a decade or more of clean water in Gahanga thanks to 2,400 SAM3 filters, six SAM2 filters, and 13 rainwater harvest systems. But the numbers don’t begin to explain the difference these clean water solutions have made in the lives of those in Gahanga—people like Hadja or the 58 children at the Gahanga Home For Vulnerable Children.

Ntarama, Rwanda

In early 2014, we entered our third district—Ntarama (pronounced Na-ra’-ma), an area inhabited by 11,581 people. Ntarama isn’t just hard to pronounce. It also epitomizes an extremely hard life on all fronts. This sector was especially impacted by the 1994 genocide with a disproportionately high death toll—around 5,000 people. Add to the mental trauma is the dirty, nasty Nyabarongo serving as the primary water source. By June of 2015 we distributed SAM3 filters to 1,545 families (7,670 individuals). But that’s not all, we also provided 9 Rainwater Harvest Systems and 6 SAM2 filters reaching a grand total of 15,125 people with a decade or more of clean water.

Mwogo, Rwanda

When we entered Mwogo Sector in March of 2015, we found muddier swamps, slimier water and a high prevalence of stomach worms. We had to step up our technical game, refining our filters and trying new approaches to combat the worst water we'd ever seen. No challenge slows us down for long and by May of 2016, we had hit our targets, reaching 17,500 people through a combination of 1,620 SAM3 household filters, 14 rainwater harvesting systems, and 8 community filters. We get a great amount of satisfaction when we hear mothers reporting that their children no longer have worms.

Juru, Rwanda

Juru is a large sector of more than 23,000 people. We started meeting with local leaders in February of 2016 to plan our work. Like other districts, subsistence farming is how men and women feed themselves and their families, most trapped in a generational cycle of poverty. Our volunteer crew believed not only could they improve their community's health, they could also increase days spent at work and school instead of home sick. We liked their attitudes and their speed. By February of 2017, we had distributed 1,653 SAM3 filters, 15 rainwater harvesting systems, and 7 SAM2 community filters. Our total reach in Juru exceeds 18,565 people who won't have to worry about dirty water for the next 10 years.

Gashora, Rwanda

In 2017, we launched a new plan that includes the Gashora sector. Now 2 hours away from home base in the capital, Kigali, we rely even more on our local leaders and volunteers.
In March the community hosted a Walk for Water to raise awareness for the water project in the sector. Over 1,000 people attended, including our 43 new volunteers who are getting trained right now to help us reach our target of 3,210 SAM3 household filters, 13 rainwater harvesting systems, and 8 community filters to bring clean water to 25,750 people.

Boy in River with Jerrycan
Rilima, Rwanda

Rilima is a victim of Rwanda's progress. In 2015 the Rwandan government began implementing plans to build a new airport complex in one of the only populated regions of the sector, displacing 6,000 residents. The remaining population are left without the community infrastructure they relied upon and are struggling for survival. Our 2017 plan brings hope to those remaining in Rilima. By September of 2018, we will have provided 604 SAM3 household filters, 5 rainwater harvesting systems, and 2 SAM2 community filters, giving 6,320 people a decade of clean water.


Solving a problem starts with trying to understand the problem, which is why our programs in both Rwanda and the U.S. start with education. Our next step is getting hands engaged in making solutions. Once you’ve put your hands to work, the problem becomes your problem. You want to do MORE and need the tools to become an advocate.

Faustin’s Story

Faustin’s Story

Our Approach


In Rwanda, the families receiving filters dedicate several hours participating in hands-on training to educate themselves about how to use and maintain their filter, how to avoid contaminating their filtered water, and the basics of preventing transmission of germs through hand-washing and hygiene skills.

EDUCATE: United States

In the U.S., 20 Liters provides opportunities for families to learn more about the global water crisis and our technologies. At each of our events, we make demonstration filters available so that our supporters can touch and begin to understand how the filters work. We regularly suggest engagement activities like participating in a Walk for Water ... Read More that help individuals and families better understand the realities of living in a place without access to clean water. And finally, we make sure our supporters see the numbers that show the severity of the global water crisis and the stories of individuals who use our solutions to meet the needs of their families and communities.

MAKE: Rwanda

In Rwanda, our volunteers start by identifying the families in their communities who face the most barriers to accessing clean water. Then they work with their hands to build Rain Water Harvest Systems, install SAM2 Community Filters, and to complete final assembly and distribution of SAM3 Household Filters.

MAKE: United States

In the U.S., our volunteers also have opportunities to get hands-on to make dirty water clean. They volunteer their time to host educational events, such as a local Walk for Water. They also complete the initial assembly of components for SAM2 Community Filters and SAM3 Household Filters that can then be shipped to Rwanda for final assembly.


In Rwanda, our volunteers stay involved for years in their local communities by being on-call to help their neighbors maintain and repair any filters that experience issues. These volunteers-turned-advocates stay in touch with our program staff in Rwanda to make sure that our efforts are truly sustainable and to continue to advocate for the needs of their communities.

ADVOCATE: United States

In the U.S., our volunteers often share their passion for clean water on social media or plan local events to advocate on behalf of everyone who needs clean water and encourage their families, friends and communities to join them in taking it personally. These advocates can also harness their passion to sustain the work of 20 Liters financially by hosting personal fundraisers.

Our Solutions

Training local people to implement the solutions empowers them to lead and make the program sustainable. Patrice has been a key volunteer since 2011.

WASH 101

WASH 101: Stay In Your Lane

If there is one thing that we’ve definitely established so far in this WASH 101 series, it is that there isn’t a single solution for making dirty water clean. Each… Read More

WASH 101: Physical Interventions – Filtration

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have finally made it to the final category of clean water solutions. And yes, we saved our favorite for last: Filtration. But before we get to… Read More

WASH 101: Physical Interventions – Sedimentation and Adsorption

At this point in this series, you may be questioning the rigidity of these solution categories. As we briefly mentioned in our post on antimicrobial metals, there are a few… Read More

WASH 101: Physical Interventions – Boiling and Distillation

We’re finally to our final category of solutions! Physical Intervention – specifically Boiling & Distillation. The physical intervention category is designed to cover the most basic, simplest forms of interventions…. Read More

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