One in four of the world’s population does not have access to a safely managed drinking water service: click to donate
A sustainable planet starts with clean water and we are committed to reducing our water footprint by using materials that are dyed without water, working with mills that clean and recycle their water and investing in clean water for communities.

That’s why we partner with Planet Water Foundation – a U.S. non-profit that helps combat our global water crisis by bringing clean water to the world’s most disadvantaged communities.

Since our partnership began in 2016, we have supported the construction of 26 Planet Water AquaTower community water filtration solutions, bringing access to clean, safe drinking water to up to 46,800 people.

Each AquaTower produces 1,000 liters of clean, safe drinking water per hour, enough to support the drinking water requirements of up to 1,800 people. Each and every project is deployed with volunteers from Columbia Sportswear and our partners, including the construction of the towers, and the facilitation of Planet Water’s comprehensive water health and hygiene education program, to help drive long-term awareness of healthy hygiene habits.

Our partnership has seen projects deployed across 5 countries, including Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam, many of which have been built together with our manufacturing partners.
Learn more and donate to the planet water foundation: click here
We caught up with Mark Steele, Founder & CEO of Planet Water Foundation, to learn more about their mission and operations around the world.
Can you tell us more about what the planet water foundation does?
Planet Water Foundation is a U.S.-based non-profit organization focused on bringing clean water to the world’s most disadvantaged communities through the installation of community-based water filtration systems and the deployment of hygiene education programs. Our projects are focused on children, schools, and rural communities across the Asia-Pacific region and Latin America.
A sustainable planet starts with clean water.
Planet Water implements a multi-faceted program that aims to create change at both environmental and behavioral levels. This model is built on the following primary approaches: 1) providing a safe water supply; 2) promoting water health and hygiene; 3) prioritizing ongoing monitoring, evaluation, and sustainability; 4) enhancing corporate social responsibility programming and employee engagement; and 5) engaging and empowering communities throughout this process.
Why is the focus on water so important?
Water is a basic necessity for life, however the number of people lacking access to clean water globally is alarming. Across the world, 1 in 4 of the world’s population does not have access to a safely managed drinking water service.[1] These rates are higher in communities facing water poverty—these are the areas where Planet Water focuses its projects.
Across the world, one in four people lacks access to a safely managed drinking water service.
Water poverty is an issue that not only has an impact on health but also has significant implications for education, gender equity, and social wellbeing. Although many areas of the world have available water sources, water is often not safe for human consumption and in many cases access is unreliable and comes at a high cost to human health, family finances, personal safety, educational opportunities, economic productivity, and overall community development. As global demand for water continues to grow and we see an increased impact on water scarcity and quality due to climate change, natural disasters, and pollution, this is an issue we must prioritize to ensure healthy ecosystems and sustainable communities worldwide.
In which countries does the foundation operate?
Planet Water has deployed more than 1,700 projects that provide clean water access to more than three million people across 26 countries. Our projects are primarily focused in the Asia-Pacific region and Latin America.
Is the infrastructure and education free for the communities? How do you choose the locations?
The local Planet Water team has worked closely with Columbia Sportswear’s supplier partners to identify schools within their supply chain communities who can directly benefit from these projects. For each project, the team initially identified three to five potential sites, which they then assess and determine which location is in greatest need and most viable for the projects.

The recipient communities are then involved throughout the process to ensure buy-in and participation in the initiative. In addition, following the deployment of each system, the Planet Water team trains a group of custodial staff and teachers from each school on the simple cleaning and maintenance processes to ensure the projects are sustainable over time. And the Planet Water team returns back to each site regularly over four years to complete follow-up visits and reinforce training where needed.
How and why did Columbia Sportswear get involved?
We began our partnership with Columbia Sportswear in 2016, with our first two projects deployed together in Vietnam. Columbia Sportswear became involved with our projects as part of their commitment to social and environmental responsibility and to support communities in need within their supply chain.
In partnership with Planet Water, Columbia has supported the construction of 26 AquaTower projects across 5 countries.
What are the successes you have seen so far from the program?
Planet Water and Columbia Sportswear have now brought clean, safe water access to up to 46,800 people while providing water-health and hygiene education programming to the participating communities. Based on an impact evaluation study from other projects, Planet Water’s approach was found to decrease diarrhea rates by 80% in participating communities while also having significant improvements in knowledge and behavior related to water-health and hygiene topics.
In addition to the impact we have made together on participating communities, we have also provided a platform to engage Columbia’s supplier partners on meaningful Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives. This has included participation from employee volunteers from Columbia Sportswear and partner companies. These volunteers have helped deploy each project from beginning to end to provide clean water access to supply chain communities.
Planet Water’s approach was found to decrease diarrhea rates by 80% in participating communities while also having significant improvements in knowledge and behavior related to water-health and hygiene topics.
Beyond the impact Planet Water has measured through prior evaluation studies, access to clean water catalyzes change within a community by improving health, increasing educational opportunities through higher rates of school attendance, and transforming the lives of women and girls, who often dedicate hours a day to collecting water.
What are the challenges still ahead?
The need for clean water access remains a pressing global issue and has been identified by the United Nations as one of the Sustainable Development goals. Through collaborative projects between organizations such as Planet Water Foundation and Columbia Sportswear we continue to make progress towards improving well-being for all.

[1] United Nations Water – Progress on Drinking Water 2020 update