Photos: Surge for Water

By Ashley Alt

In America, we don’t think twice about heading to the kitchen to get a glass of water because we’ve grown up having it available whenever we wanted or needed it. Having access to clean drinking water is nothing to many of us – but for millions, it is a matter of life or death.

Nearly 663 million people around the world do not have access to clean drinking water, while 2.4 billion people lack improved sanitation services. Every year, 3.4 million people, mostly children, die from water-related diseases. 2,300 people die every day because they aren’t able to get to safe drinking water. These are not small numbers, and water-related issues are only growing. It is predicted by the year 2025 that two-thirds of the world will live in areas of water stress due to population growth and the changing climate’s impact on water availability.


Built on the belief that every person has an equal right to safe water access, Surge For Water sets out to save lives and transform communities so everyone everywhere has the adequate resources needed for safe drinking water.

Surge for Water is a non-profit organization based in Chicago that provides sustainable safe water, sanitation and hygiene solutions to children and families in need. Surge started in 2008, and has since grown to a major global organization providing safe water and sanitation to over 170,000 people in 11 countries and counting. Projects under this amazing effort have helped thousands of families in Bangladesh, Cambodia, the Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Tanzania and Uganda.

Surge has a pledge stating that 100% of public donations fund safe water, sanitation and associated education projects.

Today, a global team of volunteers operates the foundation, each possessing a personal story linking to why water had brought them to the cause.

This Fall, Surge held its annual gala, the Once in a Blue Moon event, at Moonlight Studios on the West side of Chicago for a night of glamor and giving back. Featuring an open bar, chef’s tables, glam stations and a silent auction, the cocktail event proved quite successful. Seeing hundreds of people gathering to make such a massive difference in so many people’s lives was truly touching.


Co-founder & Executive Director Shilpa Alva showed her gratitude to attendees by giving a heartwarming speech on how proud she was of the organization and everyone behind it, saying how unexpected and overwhelming it is to have the mission resonate with so many others.

“I cannot express how proud I am,” Shilpa said. “One little idea turned into a life-changing project that is continuing to make an impact on thousands, and it’s because of all of you.”

Born and raised in Dubai, Shilpa is a recent Chicago resident who travels the globe on Surge’s behalf, building and maintaining field partnerships, teaching Surge’s signature WASH sanitation training and raising awareness on the global water crisis.

Continuing the support, members of Surge spread awareness of the struggles people face through various events in Chicago and around the world, hoping there will be a chance for a better future.

To get involved with Surge, learn about events or projects or to make a donation, head to