PARK CITY, Utah (AP) — The water contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan, is something millions of people across the globe experience every day.
Actor Matt Damon and Gary White, co-founders of the nonprofit Water.org, came to the Sundance Film Festival on Saturday to call attention to the desperate need for clean water in impoverished regions around the world.
“Imagine this outrage we feel about Flint — this justified outrage, I should say, because that should never happen in the United States of America, ever,” Damon said in an interview with The Associated Press. “But there are people for whom life is such a desperate struggle, that they’re faced every day with the choice of giving their children dirty water or no water at all.”
Damon and White appeared alongside Todd Allen of Stella Artois to discuss the global water crisis and to announce their “Buy a Lady a Drink” campaign — so named because water shortages disproportionately affect women, who spend hours each day searching for water for their families.
The beer maker is introducing a limited-edition collection of decorated glass chalices representing water-poor countries such as Ethiopia, Haiti, India and Honduras. The sale of each $13 goblet will provide a woman in one of these countries with five years of clean water.
The partnership began last year and has provided water for 290,000 people so far, Allen said.
“Obviously, we’re hoping to do even better this year,” Damon said. Some 663 million people around the world lack access to clean drinking water.
The water crisis in Flint shows how heartbreaking and horrifying life without clean water is, Damon said. He recalled a trip to Ethiopia several years ago where he witnessed schoolchildren filling bottles with water “the color of chocolate milk.” Their parents knew the water would make the children sick, but without it, they would have nothing to drink.
“I have four daughters,” Damon said. “When you start having kids, it’s hard not to see other kids as your own … It’s incumbent upon me to do whatever I can within my sphere of influence” to help.
Though Christian Bale’s character in the Oscar-nominated film “The Big Short” bet on water as the hottest future commodity, White said enough clean water exists to satisfy the thirst and needs of everyone on the planet.
“It just becomes where is the water and where are the people, and where are the financial resources to be able to treat it and move it,” he said. “The water is there, but it’s the finance — it’s poverty that’s keeping us from solving the problems.”