How One Idea Gave 663 Million People Clean Drinking Water

Steve Jobs once said, “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” Some people might view this as an impossible task, but it is possible. One person can make a difference. The only thing you need is action. Scott Harrison did just that by giving millions of people clean drinking water.

How One Idea Gave 663 Million People Clean Drinking Water

Scott Harrison, founder and owner of charity: water, is living proof of this. He had no idea when he started on his journey that he would build one of the most trusted charities in the world. But through his commitment to his vision, and learning about what matters in life the hard way, he did just that.

The Rise and Fall of Scott Harrison

You often hear that money doesn’t buy you happiness. Whether you agree or disagree with this statement, it was 100% true for Scott Harrison.

Growing up, Harrison lived a very tame life; no parties, drugs, or alcohol. He played piano for his church and took care of his sick mother. However, at 18, Harrison found himself in New York City on his own, and for the first time in his life, he was eager to explore.

He moved to New York with the band he was in, but upon his arrival, they split. “We hated each other,” Harrison says while speaking at INBOUND. After they broke up, he picked up a job as a nightclub promoter. It was a perfect chance to explore the city and rebel against his previously innocent lifestyle.

For 10 years, Harrison rose through the social cliques of New York. Budweiser and Bacardi paid him thousands of dollars simply to drink their name-brand drinks in public. By the end of the decade, Harrison’s mental and physical health was dwindling. He was suffering from a cough born from 10 years of smoking, and he was addicted to alcohol, drugs, and gambling. He describes this period of his life in one sentence: “I was just rotting inside.”

A Life Dedicated to Serving Others

At 28, Harrison asked himself a question that would change his life forever: “What would the exact opposite of my life look like?”

Within six months, the soon-to-be SEO of charity: water had sold every possession he owned and dedicated himself to serving the poor. He found himself working on a hospital boat, known as Mercy Ships, that traveled along the African coast and gave people access to medical care. After 16 months, Harrison discovered where the rest of his life would lead: providing clean water to 663 million people.

Scott Harrison, Charity: water

In 2006, Harrison founded the charity: water, which started with a minuscule team with no funds or experience in a small Manhattan apartment. He met his first hurdle as he attempted to build his charity. As it turns out, many people don’t trust them. So, Harrison knew he had to reinvent the image of charity. He set out to prove to people that they could see the direct results of what their funds did for the organization.

For his 31st birthday, Harrison decided to celebrate by going to a nightclub. His guests enjoyed an open bar for a full hour, and Harrison had each person pay $20. At the end of the night, he had $15,000. With this money, he immediately went to a refugee camp in Uganda and used it to build three wells. Then, he sent pictures to the birthday party attendees to show them what their money had done. Each person was stunned; no one had expected to hear back from Harrison, but he proved them delightfully wrong.

Today, 13 years later, charity: water has raised over $388 million, funding over 30,000 water projects in 26 countries and bringing some people clean drinking water for the first time in their lives.


On Oct. 2, 2018, Harrison published “Thirst: A Story of Redemption, Compassion, and a Mission to Bring Clean Water to the World.” Through the pages of this book, Harrison recounts his inspirational story and shows readers what it really means to make a change.

clean drinking water

“Thirst,” reveals what good intentions, passion, and effort can do, not just for one country, but for the whole world. No matter where you start or what inspiration you draw from, you can make a change through enough determination, hard work, and compassion.

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