A cistern in Mexico

Linking trees, water, and people

Wherever you live, water is vital

March 22 is World Water Day, and it’s a great opportunity to take a deeper look at the importance of clean water to people all around the world.

If you’ve never had to struggle to access clean water, it can be all too easy to take it for granted. In many parts of the world, especially rural areas, finding water is an extremely difficult task. Improved access to water results in empowerment, education, better health, and more.

Globally, approximately 844 million people lack access to safe water. That’s roughly one in every nine people, a number is similar to the amount of people living in poverty.

Women are the most affected by lack of water access, as the task of collecting water typically falls on household mothers. Children are also extremely vulnerable to the effects of unclean water: every two minutes, a child dies as a result of waterborne illnesses.

A lake in the Congo.
A lake in the Congo.

Trees increase water availability

While the water crisis remains a serious issue, recent years have seen significant progress. Since 1990, about 2 billion people have gained access to a safe and clean water source thanks to organizations rallying together to address this crisis.

Initially, there was a lot of uncertainty regarding how digging water wells might affect the environment. Some people thought that trees and water wells might compete for groundwater (the water present beneath the earth’s surface that such wells usually tap into). Planting trees close to wells appeared counterproductive.

Saplings in a nursery in Haiti.
Saplings in a nursery in Haiti.

Lately, that thinking has shifted. A study by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences studied dry landscapes and found that trees increase water availability by helping replenish groundwater. Trees allow water to infiltrate the soil and add to the groundwater supply. This amount of water is much greater than the amount trees use.

Also, while the flow of groundwater toward a well may negatively affect smaller plants, including farmers’ crops, trees can help offset those effects. They are larger and more resilient, and their roots can pull up nutrients from deep soil to help those crops. The cover of trees provides shade and atmospheric moisture to help plants grow.

Creation is full of mysteries and opportunities to be amazed.
Creation is full of mysteries and opportunities to be amazed.

Water and trees are complementary ways to help people

The fact that trees and water go hand-in-hand is great news for rural populations. This means they can continue to pursue both, knowing that in the long run, each investment will transform lives.

Access to clean water saves people time. It allows women to be more productive through farm work or by starting their own businesses. A healthy tree cover helps crops grow more plentifully, providing farming families with more food. A strong concentration of trees can create enough atmospheric moisture to increase the amount of local rainfall and water. More water helps farmers grow more trees.

Our team has worked alongside water organizations for years, and we will continue to do so. Groups like charity:water, World Vision, and Lifewater International are great peers in helping make life better for rural populations.

In addition, Plant With Purpose continues to monitor the availability of water in the communities where we work. Where we work, we’ve seen the amount of time it takes to access water drop by 31 percent!

Interested in giving people access to clean water while planting more trees? Make a donation today! Want to be part of this change on a monthly basis? Learn more about becoming a Purpose Partner!

Philippe Lazaro

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