• 2 July 2019

Making every drop count with WaterAid

Peter O’Flaherty, Associate Director for Waterman Infrastructure & Environment, started volunteering with WaterAid in 2016 to help their world-wide mission of providing everyone with clean water, adequate sanitation and good hygiene. Here, he tells us why he is proud to support the charity and discusses his latest role as a ‘Water Welcomer’ at Glastonbury.

As a chartered flood risk and drainage engineer with many years’ experience of leading complex flood risk and sustainable drainage projects, I’ve always wanted to participate in voluntary work that aligned with my skills and values. In 2016 this opportunity presented itself when I came across WaterAid, a charity which envisions a world where everyone, everywhere can benefit from equality, health and an education in clean water.

Over 2 billion people don’t have access to a proper toilet and I think it’s easy for us to take for granted that we have instant access to clean water in our homes. In the UK, all new developments are legally entitled to a connection to a public sewer to take wastewater away from our homes and businesses safely. This should not be a privilege.

WaterAid understand that without water, toilets and basic hygiene, people can’t live dignified and healthy lives. Their mission is about more than installing taps, boreholes and wells. To make a lasting change on a massive scale, WaterAid speak to government bodies to change laws and link policy-makers with people on the ground, helping to connect 25.8 million individuals with clean water.

Since I started volunteering with the charity, I’ve taken on a variety of roles which focus on providing essential water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services. A job I’ve been happy to revisit for the last few years has been supporting the revellers at Glastonbury’s annual performing arts festival. As the world’s largest ‘green-field’ festival, there are over 135,000 people in attendance every year and it’s our job to support a more environmentally friendly and sustainable experience.

I have supported WaterAid in a few different roles at Glastonbury and took on a new badge as a ‘Water Welcomer’ for this year’s festival on 26th to 30th June. As the name implies, I joined over 600 volunteers to keep festivalgoers hydrated from the moment they arrived on site, dispensing free water from jetpacks (a backpack with a tank and dispenser) at the pedestrian gates, before then working in shifts at the water kiosks for 24 hours.

As well as providing an element of sanitation, we also take the opportunity to speak to people about the issues that large swathes of the globe have in obtaining these fundamental and basic provisions. Each year, we highlight a specific area of WaterAid’s work, whether that is a petition to the UK government or raising money for a particular project. This year, we were raising awareness for #AccessDenied which is showcasing the marginalised and excluded groups who often have their access to clean water and elementary sanitation denied to them.

My volunteer work with WaterAid is immensely rewarding and exciting. It’s a great opportunity to connect with people, discuss these important issues and gain support through petition signatures. I usually find that people at Glastonbury are much more receptive to our message when they don’t have access to their usual home comforts, meaning they can empathise and understand how difficult it would be for vulnerable groups of people to face these challenges for their entire lives.

Every year I feel like I’ve made a difference and am determined to help WaterAid until they meet their objectives.

Peter O’Flaherty

For further information on WaterAid, you can view their website here.

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