Founder & CEO of California Surf Co.


Photo: Thirst Project

More than 1 billion people on Earth do not have access to safe, clean, drinking water. That’s roughly one in seven people. It’s a resource the rest of us take for granted and use in mass quantities every single day. There are some people, however, that have dedicated themselves to making that number much smaller.

In 2008, a group of broke college kids in Los Angeles, California came together in an unconventional way. A 19-year-old named Seth Maxwell had an epiphany while looking at photos of a friend’s trip to Africa. He was horrified by seeing men, women, and children drinking polluted water with an appalling chocolate milk-like consistency. After diving into every resource possible, Seth came to a devastating conclusion about the water crisis in Africa and decided to act fast.

Maxwell gathered his friends to brainstorm ways to help. Together, they scraped up $70 and bought heaps of water bottles. They gave them out around Hollywood as a way to educate people on the very water crisis they’d decided to battle. That day, they raised $1,700 to purchase their first water well. And with that, Thirst Project was born.


Nine years later, Seth and his team have raised over $8 Million to build thousands of water purification projects in Africa. The wells have provided over 280,000 people with clean drinking water they otherwise wouldn’t have had access to. And now, their goal is to provide the entire country of Swaziland with clean drinking water by 2022. But why Swaziland?

“Swaziland has the highest density of HIV/AIDS infections in the world,” states Maxwell. “When people are infected, their immune systems are so much more likely to shut down when treated with compromised drinking water. We feel Swaziland is the most attainable goal and if we knock out one whole country, we’ll have the momentum and resources to knock out another and another.”

Though Swaziland is Thirst Project’s #1 target, they also have active water well projects in Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, India, Colombia, and El Salvador. With over 2,200 water projects and counting, they have their hands full. They’re able to fund it all by speaking in schools and challenging kids to help address the same problem, starting a worldwide movement with high school and college students everywhere learning that clean water isn’t guaranteed for all — but it should be.

Thirst Project has made me realize just how trivial a lot of our own problems can be. It should put things into perspective the next time your phone is about to die, you don’t have enough money for avocado toast, or there’s nothing good on Netflix. When that happens, just remind yourself that one in seven people in the world don’t have the clean drinking water you do. Sometimes, a realization like that is all it takes to inspire somebody to get involved.

Note: You can learn more online at

Join The Inertia Family 

Only the best. We promise.