Our History

Banner in front of water project, NicaraguaBanner in front of water project, Nicaragua

Global Water was founded in 1982 by former U.S. Ambassador John McDonald and Dr. Peter Bourne to help save the lives of people in developing countries that are lost due to unclean water.

In 1977 the United Nations hosted a World Conference on Water. One of the many recommendations made by the Conference was to recommend a Decade focused on drinking water and sanitation. In 1978 Ambassador McDonald took that paragraph out of the larger World Conference document and decided to focus on that recommendation in order to make it a reality. On November 10, 1980 the United Nations General Assembly adopted McDonald’s resolution unanimously and the Decade was launched (1981-1990). Ambassador McDonald was named the United States Coordinator for the Decade by the State Department in 1979 and has continued his interest in water issues to this day.

Dr. Peter Bourne, a former White House Special Assistant to President Carter, was named United Nations Coordinator for the Decade in 1982, with the rank of Assistant Secretary General and was based in New York. The Decade was a great success bringing 1.1 billion people safe drinking water for the first time in their lives and 769 million people sanitation facilities.”

During this period, Ambassador McDonald traveled extensively to developing nations and saw first hand the problems that unclean water causes people to endure; as he tells it:

“Nothing I had ever seen in my life prepared me for the day I landed in Africa. I saw villages where people trekked miles in the hot sun just to get clean water for the day. But even more tragic were the children I saw suffering from the lack of clean water. Some seemed to be just hours from death, many were chronically ill and others had lost their vision to trachoma, an easily preventable disease caused by contaminated water.”

Since 1982, Global Water has worked with water supply projects all over the world in a variety of roles in order to accommodate local conditions. Starting as an advocacy group spreading awareness of water issues, that focus has transitioned into a project oriented organization. Along with this transition, we have built our foundation with technical specialists in the water industry, enabling us to better understand the complexity of water issues in rural areas of developing countries and thereby manage projects more effectively. Global Water goes beyond the conventional, short-term humanitarian project to make a genuine, lasting impact in rural regions.