Conservation Corner: Wine with dinner, or Water for People?


Conservation corner - fall 2009

I do a lot of public speaking engagements. I do not get paid for them; it is part of my Neal klassen (160p)job. After my talks, I am usually presented with a nominal gift: a bottle of wine, a box of chocolates, a coupon for a restaurant, etc.

Recently, I did a presentation for a local Rotary Club, and instead of a token gift, they made a donation, in my name, of enough funds to immunize 20 children against polio. What an awesome idea!

I started thinking about the value of all the bottles of wine I have been given over the years (which my wife usually ‘re-gifts’) and all those boxes of chocolate (which my wife will not let me bring home because of her addiction to the stuff).

Then I thought, what if instead of accepting the offered gift when I make a presentation, I were to ask the host to instead make a donation to Water For People, the AWWA’s and BCWWA’s charity of choice?

For those of you who are not aware of Water For People, here is some information Conservation corner - fall 2009 sidebarabout it from the AWWA website:

“Founded in 1991 by AWWA, Water For People is a non-profit international development organization that helps people in developing countries improve their quality of life, by supporting the development of locally sustainable drinking water resources, sanitation facilities, and health and hygiene education programs.”

Hmmm, a bottle of wine with my dinner or life-sustaining water to help some of the 1.1 billion people worldwide who do not have access to safe drinking water? I know the choice I am going to make. From now on, when an organization offers me a gift for public speaking, I will decline it gracefully and give them a card showing them how to make a donation to Water For People.

I wonder how many of our members do ‘free’ presentations and also receive token gifts. How many of you would be willing to give up that little perk and ask for a donation for Water For People instead?

I am not talking about those individuals who are paid to speak, just  those like me, who make presentations here and there as part of their job.

There are 60,000 members in the AWWA and 4,200 in BCWWA. Not all of us are public speakers, but I am willing to bet a good proportion of us speak at a couple of events per year. Just think how much money we could raise through nominal donations in lieu of token gifts, and we would be supporting our own charity.

In any case, it takes one to start and, as of now, that is what I am doing. Is anyone else with me? In closing, here is some more information about Water For People:

“Every day, 5,000 people who share our planet die from water-related illnesses, nearly two million each year, and the vast majority of these are children. Epidemics of cholera, dysentery and hepatitis are common diseases that can be traced directly to water or sanitation. Water is arguably the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time.

“Water For People invites you to help us share the gift of life — the gift of safe drinking water and sanitation. There are lots of ways to get involved. Visit the Water For People website at”


By Neal Klassen, BCWWA “Watermark” contributor

Originally published in the Fall 2009 issue of Watermark Magazine, the official publication of the British Columbia Water & Waste Association (BCWWA).


Posted October 2009