Water – basic human right

by Sebastian TIRTIRAU

Water – basic human right

My first expedition into the Kalahari Desert was in 1996.  My friend Dan and I were young students in Cape Town and when we reached the Kalahari in the back of a truck, it was quite a shock for both of us.  The grass huts of the little village were spread across the bush and it was hard to connect with the San Bushmen for the first few days.  They speak the language called Ju:Hoansi and all we could hear were clicks made with their tongues.  It was fascinating!

At first, we didn’t realize exactly how much these people went through and what they were suffering now.  It took me a few trips to the Kalahari to dive deeper into their culture and then I discovered how much they suffered of thirst.  Kalahari in the San language means the Great Thirst, which led me to understand that they were very thirsty, as they had not much water, but they call the thirst for water the Little Thirst, and Kalahari is the Great Thirst for meaning, which was extremely interesting to me and it might be the subject for a future post.

But the Little Thirst created a lot of anxiety for the San: surviving on about 200 ml of water per day, collected from the dew drops on leaves in the morning or from roots that stored water, it’s not much relief for the human body, especially in the Kalahari, where the temperatures easily reach 45 C (115 F) during the hot summer months.  Some villages had to walk large distances to find a bit of water.

As I traveled across the desert in my expeditions there, I discovered that the Kalahari held a secret: it has the largest underground lake in the world, called the Dragon’s Breath.  The Okavango River, the only river in the world that does not flow into a sea or a lake, but it is swallowed whole by the Kalahari, goes underground and feeds this immense lake.  The water down there is clean and great for drinking.  Soon, I realized how amazing this would be if I can reach the underground aquifer and give the San free water to drink, wash, cook and plant gardens.

25 years later, we now have installed 110 water systems powered by solar technology, almost maintenance free and running just fine.  Over 30.000 people drink and use water from these systems.  And I would love to keep installing these systems.  More than 1 million children die every year because they cannot access clean water.  Let me say that again: 1 million… children… every year!  Because they lack a simple, basic human right: WATER.


  1. Eleanor Wells

    Water is more important than the bikes I was going to buy your village children. I have sent you the money raised. You are an amazing man Sebastian Tirtirau.

    • Sebastian Tirtirau

      Eleanor, thank you so much for your donation. Gratefully received and we will keep you informed of our progress,


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1. To promote, support and develop the well-being of underprivileged, marginalized and remote children of the world, orphans primarily but not necessarily as a general rule.

2. To create the appropriate infrastructure for such projects, like water systems powered by solar technology, irrigation and agricultural systems to feed them, school buildings, sports facilities, skill development facilities, education sponsorship, medical help and humanitarian support.

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