04/05/2013 01:59 pm ET Updated Jun 05, 2013

From Death to Life: Clean Water and Fuzzy Slippers

How can it be, in this vastly connected "civilized" world, that 2.5 million children die each year from drinking bad water? That's 5,000 kids per day, one child every 22 seconds! So by the time you're finished reading this, 15 little kids will no longer be.

Could that really be right? That's insane.

If that's really true... what am I supposed to do about it?

I've heard my whole life to eat the food on my plate because "there are children in Africa who are starving to death."

I guess that worked for a while until I figured out that eating my food had precisely zilch, nada, nothing to do with children dying of starvation in Africa.

Eat my food because kids are starving? Don't take a long shower because people don't have clean water in Africa?

Thus began my cynical view of poverty and charity.

But what if there was a different way to view charity? A way that was more relevant than guilting kids into eating their vegetables?

I travel to Africa often and see firsthand what the lack of clean water looks, smells, and feels like. Little bitty kids with their bloated little bellies...always sick and many times in their last few weeks on this earth. Children who are never even given a chance to reach their potential.... any potential.

Why? For lack of clean water? It really hacks me off.

But then when I get back to Oklahoma, I walk in my most excellent shower, put on my fuzzy slippers, grab my sack of Nacho Cheese Doritos and flip on my 50" plasma TV. I think, just yesterday I was with these little kids who I will never see again, who will never grow up, who will never "be." How is this right?

But what if the solution wasn't that complicated?

Back in 2008 I had a chance to travel to Sierra Leone, West Africa, the poorest country in the world. Remember the movie "Blood Diamond?" Well that's Sierra Leone.

I had previously presented a paper at a conference in San Antonio on water in the developing world. At the conference there was a talk titled "Drill a Well in the Amazon for $50". Being the cynical skeptic that I am, it was a must see. It was a very crude hand drilling method for which I obtained the plans, went back to OKC and promptly built my very own hand drilling rig.

Now back to my trip to Sierra Leone, we took the drilling tools with us on the four flight, 36 hour trip to a very remote village four hours outside of Freetown, two hours off road, and promptly drilled our very first water well by hand for less than $1,200.

Are you kidding me? The first of its kind-- a pristine, clean water well in a village of 280 souls. Kids were dying, drinking out of a mud hole and now they're not.


What am I missing? This water crisis has been grinding on for a hundred years since we became "civilized."

Now that's a good one... me sitting in my fuzzy slippers, "civilized," while little kids are dying at the rate of one every 22 seconds!

Word got out about our little hobby project of drilling inexpensive water wells, and people wanted to give money to help. Thus the birth of Water4,

We refined our drilling methods, and said yes to every project that came our way. When we finally came up for air we had been in 30 different countries throughout South and Central America, India, Asia (including two trips to North Korea) and, of course, our beloved Africa.

Myself, along with 13 of the most dedicated givers of life at Water4, plus hundreds of volunteers and partner organizations across the globe are now working on the largest humanitarian well drilling project on earth-- a 7,000 well project with our great partner World Vision. This project will get water to millions. But most importantly, it will not done by the fuzzy slipper, "civilized" types, but by the Africans themselves.

At Water4, we teach the local people how to drill water wells as a business. They get to drill their own wells to save their own people and do it as a business. A welcome occupation considering the 80% unemployment rate in the areas where we operate.


You can give water to a family for only $24. Provide a water pump for a village for just $200. Or purchase a manual drill rig for $7,500, which is capable of drilling up to 50 wells in a village, giving water to tens of thousands.

We put the solution in the hands of the people, so they can help themselves. Why, how "civilized!" Maybe I'll have some peace of mind now as I'm finishing my peas and soaking in my most excellent shower. Could we actually see the end of the world's water crisis before I exhale my last breath?

Mr. Greenly, along with his wife Terri, are the Founders of Water4, a 501c3 public charity in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. They also own Pumps of Oklahoma, a wholesale pump supply business also in Oklahoma City. Mr. and Mrs. Greenly and the rest of the team at Water4 are dedicating their lives to eradicating the world's water crisis by putting the solution in the hands of the people to get water to the bottom billion. Go to to learn more and become part of the solution, and watch this video to learn more about the global water crisis and how Water4 is fighting the issue: