Changing Lives With Clean Water

Winter 2018


Shilpa Alva
(Photo courtesy of Surge)

The need for clean water and sanitation is a given for health. However, having access to these necessities is far from assured in the developing world.

That’s why Shilpa Alva ’02 founded Surge for Water—a nonprofit that focuses on creating solutions for clean water, sanitation, and hygiene.

The roots for Surge, established in 2008, took hold between Alva’s junior and senior years. With funding from a Vredenburg Scholarship, she traveled to a remote village in India. There she worked on sanitation and hygiene projects.

After years of juggling corporate jobs while trying to raise money for other clean water–focused organizations, Alva eventually decided to start her own.

Based in Chicago and Dubai, Surge collaborates with local organizations, governments, and leaders to make community development projects community-led and sustainable.

A typical project: Because a well in a small Ugandan village had broken down, residents were forced to collect water from an open spring—a situation that led several children to drown. Surge worked to raise money and rehabilitate the well. To date, Surge has conducted projects in 11 countries, and the team has provided clean water to an estimated 400,000 people.

“We’re changing lives,” says Alva, “and my life has been changed, too.”

Web Extra

In this TEDxJHU talk, Shilpa Alva shares the career journey that lead to creating Surge for Water.