For Immediate Release: August 23, 2023
AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Water Trade is pleased to announce the commitment of funds to launch services of Vida Water, a Public Benefit Corporation that aims to close the clean water gap for underserved populations across Texas. Vida’s operations will be launched in unserved areas of El Paso County in Fall 2023, followed by a pilot launch in the Lower Rio Grande Valley in early 2024.
More than 1 million Texans do not have reliable access to clean, affordable drinking water. The problem is widespread across all geographies and income levels, including: those dependent on public water supplies with lead-tainted water; those reliant on private groundwater wells that are unmonitored and unregulated for water quality; and those in underserved communities along the southern border and across the state who have no water infrastructure at all. In the Rio Grande Valley alone, the state estimates that more than 100,000 people lack basic water services.
Vida Water aims to close this water gap by deploying and maintaining onsite water treatment technologies for households and schools using a subscription payment system designed to beat what the lowest income Texans pay today for bottled water. The point of use treatment systems it will deploy and maintain are already being used by millions of Americans today.
With launch capital from corporate and philanthropic partners including Lyda Hill Philanthropies, Vida Water plans to start its services in El Paso County, where hundreds of households rely on trucked and bottled water for basic needs. Vida Water’s service model has been developed in close collaboration with the University of Texas – El Paso (UTEP), which has conducted extensive research on the in-home drinking water treatment options preferred by members of the community who are unserved by public water.
Vida Water’s pricing model is grounded in an extensive survey of 650 households conducted in coordination with UTEP and health promoters in El Paso County, the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston. The survey, which was focused on low-income communities, illuminated the costs paid by households without water services or with concerns over the safety of their tap water.
Survey respondents – 45 percent of whom reported earning less than $25,000 a year – reported spending $47 a month on average to secure water for their households. That figure swelled to as high as $250 a month for households using both trucked and bottled water. Bottled water purchases were reported as $37 a month on average. These costs do not include transportation costs.
“As a lifelong Texan, I am honored to support solutions that meet the needs of my fellow Lone Star State residents,” said Lyda Hill, Dallas-based entrepreneur and founder of Lyda Hill Philanthropies, whose funding commitment will support Vida Water’s launch. “Water is essential to all of us, and no one should live in water poverty.”
Vida Water is led by CEO Jim Drees, a longtime Texas resident with extensive corporate and philanthropic experience including time leading product and market launches at Ford Motor Company, Dresser and General Electric.
“With our launch funding in hand, we are excited to start building our team, which will be drawn from the communities we will serve,” said Drees. “We are fortunate to continue our multi-year coordination with UTEP and community-based health organizations to discover and build trust with prospective customers who are seeking clean water solutions. At the end of the day, delivering solutions to communities who have been historically denied clean water moves at the speed of trust.”
Vida Water was one of five projects selected in 2021 as part of the Lone Star Prize competition, a joint effort of Lyda Hill Philanthropies and Lever for Change to find and fund bold solutions focused on building healthier, stronger communities in Texas.
The El Paso County pilot launch is made possible by a grant from GlobalGiving in partnership with Cummins Inc, which is being delivered through the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). This collaboration will support the installation and monitoring of treatment systems in homes in El Paso County. “This effort will help make safe water available to families that don’t have regular access to it. By using innovative methods of conserving and treating water while working in harmony with nature, these households will have a sustainable water supply well into the future,” said Gregory Holliday, Director at WBCSD.
“After working on this concept since 2020, we are thrilled to be bringing it into reality and grateful for our corporate and philanthropic partners’ shared vision of clean water for all Texans,” said Sharlene Leurig, CEO of Texas Water Trade and Chair of Vida Water’s Board of Directors. “We are privileged to have assembled a top-tier Board of Directors with deep experience in cross-cultural marketing, clean water access and social enterprise. By integrating their expertise with that of our public health partners and the insights of Vida Water’s customers, we look forward to building a trusted and reliable service to close the clean water gap.
Vida Water’s Board of Directors includes leaders in social innovation and entrepreneurship, consumer service brand building and utility regulations and operations. Among them is Holly Kuzmich, the Dallas-based Managing Director of Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, which invited Texas Water Trade to join its investment portfolio in July 2023. “Vida Water holds the promise of being a high-impact and scalable idea to address the clean water gap here in Texas and beyond,” said Kuzmich.
To learn more about Vida Water, see https://texaswatertrade.org/cleanwaterforall/. To learn more about Vida Water’s Board of Directors, see https://texaswatertrade.org/our-team/vida-water-board/.
About Texas Water Trade
Texas Water Trade is a nonprofit organization incorporated in 2018. Its mission is to catalyze sustainable water transactions in Texas to ensure clean, flowing water for people and nature.
About Vida Water
Vida Water is a wholly owned subsidiary of Texas Water Trade and was incorporated in 2021 in Texas as a Public Benefit Corporation. Its vision is to provide reliable, safe drinking water solutions to Texans no matter their income or zip code.
About Cummins Inc.
Cummins Inc. is a global technology company designing, manufacturing, distributing and servicing a broad portfolio of reliable, clean power solutions; including diesel, natural gas, hybrid, electric and other alternative solutions. Established in 1919 and headquartered in Columbus, Indiana (U.S.), Cummins serves customers in more than 190 countries and territories around the world. More information can be found at cummins.com.
About the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)
The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) is a global community of over 220 of the world’s leading businesses, representing a combined revenue of more than USD $8.5 trillion and 19 million employees. Together, we transform the systems we work in to limit the impact of the climate crisis, restore nature and tackle inequality.
We accelerate value chain transformation across key sectors and reshape the financial system to reward sustainable leadership and action through a lower cost of capital. Through the exchange of best practices, improving performance, accessing education, forming partnerships, and shaping the policy agenda, we drive progress in businesses and sharpen the accountability of their performance. www.wbcsd.org
About Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation
Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation (DRK) is a global venture philanthropy firm supporting early stage, high impact social enterprises. Borrowed from its venture capital legacy, DRK finds, funds, and supports exceptional leaders building innovative solutions to some of the world’s most challenging social and environmental problems. Since beginning this work over 20 years ago, DRK has invested in more than 225 organizations, collectively impacting over 300 million lives to date. To learn more about DRK Foundation, please visit: www.drkfoundation.org
About Lyda Hill Philanthropies
Lyda Hill Philanthropies encompasses the charitable giving for founder Lyda Hill and includes her foundation and personal philanthropy. Our organization is committed to funding transformational advances in science and nature, empowering nonprofit organizations and improving the Texas and Colorado communities. Because Miss Hill has a fervent belief that “science is the answer” to many of life’s most challenging issues, she has chosen to donate the entirety of her estate to philanthropy and scientific research. For more details visit: lydahillphilanthropies.org
Contact: Kristin Rodriguez, Texas Water Trade, email@example.com, (713) 471-8358.