Shakira Niazi '93 uses sales of Salvare La Vita Water to pay for wells that provide clean water in poor countries. (Photo: vitawater.org)
Shakira Niazi '93 started Salvare La Vita Water in 2010 after some post mortgage market-crash soul searching — and a concern about the lack of clean water in developing countries like Haiti and her native Afghanistan. She has designed a simple business model that saves lives: Her nonprofit, called Salvare La Vita, bottles premium water in the U.S. Her water sales pay for wells that provide clean water in poor countries.
“So many people around the world don’t have the basic human right of clean water that we take for granted,” Niazi says. “It’s a woman’s issue because the burden of household chores is on women, and they wake up in the morning and walk three to six miles just for water.”
At Salvare La Vita, which means “saves lives” in Italian, Niazi only works in countries where 50 percent of the population or less have access to clean water. She has partnered with NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) to date in Haiti, Afghanistan, and Ethiopia.
Here’s how her model works: For every 31 bottles of water sold, Niazi provides one person with clean well water for up to 20 years. She bases the total cost of a project on the average well size and how many people that well water will serve. She pays for the projects in advance, figuring out how much a well will cost and then selling enough water to pay for the project.
This story first appeared in Cal State East Bay Magazine.