‘A Basic Human Right:’ Girl Scout Leads a Clean Drinking Water Project in South Phoenix

A newly unveiled community coalition project called Water Works is bringing much-needed safe, clean drinking water to the South Phoenix community. Although it was a team effort, a teenager with the drive to make a difference was behind it all.

What is Water Works?

Water Works is designed to provide clean drinking water to the farmers and gardeners who are working hard to ensure South Phoenix families have access to fruits and vegetables at the Spaces of Opportunity community garden.

This project came to life with a merging of minds and helping hands: Girl Scout Ambassador Haley Holmes as the coalition lead, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona Foundation for Community & Health Advancement as the corporate funding partner, SOURCE® as the water technology solution, and Unlimited Potential as the nonprofit community partner.

How it started

Haley, 18, was working on her Girl Scout Gold Award project. In order to become a Gold Award Girl Scout, she had to identify an issue important to her and carry out sustainable solutions. She linked up with SOURCE, the world’s first renewable drinking water system, to tackle both environmental and health equity issues in her community.

“The South Phoenix area has a life expectancy about 14 years lower than neighboring zip codes,” Haley said. “Some community members are drinking contaminated water or resort to less expensive options like getting a liter of soda for the same price as a small bottle of water. Having access to safe, clean drinking water is one of the most basic human rights but, unfortunately, so many Americans don’t have that right and we’re trying to expand access to as many people as we can.”

How it works

The project will produce up to 10 gallons of clean drinking water every day for the farmers and gardeners at the community garden for the next 15 years through the installation of 8 SOURCE hydropanels. The SOURCE hydropanel is an innovative, infrastructure-free technology that produces clean, safe drinking water using sunlight and air.

Why it matters

“Access to clean drinking water is a basic social determinant of health, and it’s hard to promote health when you don’t even have access to clean drinking water,” said Dr. Christine Wiggs, President of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona Foundation for Community & Health Advancement.

Emma Viera, Executive Director of Unlimited Potential, said Water Works will improve the health and quality of life for the 20 farmers, 100 gardeners, and 150 weekly visitors at the Spaces of Opportunity community garden.

“We are in a desert, it’s hard to work in 110-degree heat, and even harder when you don’t have clean drinking water,” Viera said. “We have farmers from all over the world: Iraq, Zimbabwe, Mexico, Guatemala, and more. Clean drinking water helps them be successful.”

The project was funded through coalition partner, Unlimited Potential, with a health equity grant award of $25,000 from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona Foundation for Community & Health Advancement.

“We get to make a difference through partnerships with community organizations statewide, and Water Works is a perfect example of that,” Dr. Wiggs continued. “It takes funding and resources and, more than anything, that passion and common commitment to a cause. We’re so happy that through the Foundation, we can be a part of projects like this.”


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