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Every Drop Counts

Nearly a billion people don't have access to clean water. Here's how you can help.

Lack of easy access to clean water is a crisis that affects people across the globe. According to the U.N., 2.5 billion people worldwide live without basic sanitation, and nearly a billion people don't have access to fresh water.

Globally, contaminated drinking water is responsible for a devastating number of fatalities: 4,000 children die of water-related illness each day.

Because water access and sanitation are such widespread issues, it can be difficult to know how to help. Not everyone has the opportunity and resources to combat this crisis as directly as Wood does, but there are many other ways to get involved. Here are five ideas about how you can help.

Act locally. March 22 is World Water Day. This U.N.-established observance raises awareness about the world water crisis and gathers organizations and volunteers to talk about solutions. Many cities all over the world host events and public forums, so get involved in one in your town. If there aren't any planned, visit the World Water Day website to learn more about how you can help start one.

Host a fundraiser. David Winder, CEO of WaterAid America, stresses the importance of fundraising events — not just as a source of donations, but also as a personalized way to make your friends and family aware of the issue. No matter how big your event — a formal dinner or a backyard barbecue — WaterAid's Taste for Life program is a great way to contribute. Visit their site to see simple suggestions about organizing an event.

Volunteer. There are quite a few nonprofit organizations that focus on the water crisis, and they could use volunteers. No matter what skills you offer — be it event planning or answering phones — your help is needed. Water Advocates has a comprehensive list of nonprofits that work on the issue.

Voice your support. Make your voice heard: tell your local, state and national elected leaders that you care about water-related issues. Read up on bills such as the Water for the World Act and then write to your representative in Congress to express your support. Water Advocates also has extensive advocacy resources.

Educate others. "It's a big challenge to bring [this issue] to people's attention," Winder says, especially given that many Americans take water access for granted. If you don't know how to start the conversation, has the basic information. Spread the word in your family, church group, neighborhood — no effort is too small. "Water gives life," Wood says simply, "and that's what it's all about."

Lindsay Zoladz is a freelance writer in Washington, D.C.