Water is Life
Not every day can you speak with the founder of an organization working daily to change lives across the globe. Emma Wright, with the Ecclesia Project, was able to do just that. Through speaking with Ken Surritte, founder and CEO of Water is Life, she was able to gain some unique insight into the foundations of WiL, the work being done globally, and future plans. Here’s Emma.
I called Ken Surritte on a Friday afternoon and immediately recognized the familiar beeps and cracks of a car speaker system. Driving through the streets of Oklahoma City, Surritte began to tell me about his involvement in humanitarian work and the beginning of Water is Life. Dozens of years ago, after founding an organization to support orphanages, a well was drilled at a children’s home that was very much in need, however, even after the well was put in place, kids were continuing to get sick. After working with and retesting the well over and over again, he found that the source of the issue was that the “drinking fountain” at the school grounds was a stagnant pond.
Water is Life was born through this experience, with the development of the WATERisLIFE filtration straws, which were sent with the children to school so that they would have clean water. Now the school has a fully-functioning well and the organization is improving the effectiveness of the filtration straws all the time. Surritte explained that the newest model, which is about the size of a pen, will get rid of the viruses, fluoride, and chlorine often found in contaminated water. He added that the newest mission of WiL is to supply everyone in Flint, Michigan a straw so that they can take it to restaurants and other such establishments in order to have clean water access wherever they travel (learn more about the filtration straws here: The Straw - they're only $10!). During the conversation with Surritte, I learned a lot about filtration technology used by WiL. For example, their “drinkable books” water treatment uses silver nanoparticles to clean the water. “Silver has long been used for water purification,” Surrite says, “Cowboys used to use silver to kill bacteria.”
WiL works primarily outside of the United States, mostly because that is where the need is greatest; however, they also work locally as the need arises. The organization is constantly working to improve and update the technology they are using. One example of this can be seen through their development of a nano filtration home system that can pump a liter of water per minute. In addition to the Flint project, WiL is currently collecting donations for a solar powered emergency relief trailer that will be able to travel across the States to address emergency situations such as those that have recently arisen in Houston and Florida.
All of WiL’s finances are available online. Admitting that there can be a lot of financial abuse in the NGO circuit, Surritte promises that over 90% of donations received by WiL go directly to funding projects. Their goal is to create long-term strategies for water access and purification wherever they go. Through targeting and assessing the need of each area, WiL can work with the necessary people to find a solution that can be vetted, implemented, and sustained. As Surrite put it, “there are enough one and done systems.”
Water is Life frequently sends teams to the various countries in which they work (some countries include Tanzania, Ghana, Ethiopia, China, India, Haiti, Costa Rica, Mexico, and more). Team members become ambassadors for the organization through sharing their stories and experiences. WiL gained a lot of acknowledgement and support through their video on #firstworldproblems – a video creatively addressing that “problem” is an entirely relative term (maybe you’ve already seen it! If not, check it out here: #Killer). Much of the work being done in Haiti was funded through responses to this video.
Currently, Water is Life is working on partnerships to do work in Puerto Rico. They recently received a team back to the States who focused on fixing and repairing wells, as well as teaching locals how to maintain and repair the wells themselves. Surritte is a very kind and passionate man excited about the work being accomplished through WiL. At the end of the conversation, he extended me an invitation that I know he would extend to us all: “Maybe you can come with us one day! Think about going with us. You just have to see it.”
Thank you Mr. Surritte, and everyone at Water is Life, for the work that you are doing to provide essential needs and change the lives of people around the world. For more information about how you can get involved, visit You + WiL. For more photos, visit their Facebook page here.
*All photos and videos linked and obtained through permission and cooperation with Water is Life.