ZAO Water

Dave · November 1, 2005 at 10:03 am · Filed Under Off-topic ranting 

All of us here are baseball nuts. We spend far too much time thinking, talking, and writing about the game. However, for each of us, baseball is still just a part of our lives. So, for a moment, I want to take a break from talking to you guys about the Mariners and show you an opportunity to join with me on another part of my life.

One of the organizations I’m involved with is a non-profit group called ZAO Water. It was founded two years ago by a guy named Matt Peterson, who I’m proud to call a friend of mine, who believed he had an idea that could impact the world in a significant way. At its heart, ZAO is committed to providing fresh drinking water and sanitation to the impoverished nations of Africa. The numbers of diseases that have decimated Africa due to the lack of clean water are staggering:

2.3 billion people worldwide have a water-born disease.

5 million people a year die from water-born diseases (including cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, etc…). It is the number one killer of humans worldwide.

The W.H.O. estimates that by 2025, 2/3 of the worlds population will live in areas of water shortage.

The lack of access to fresh drinking water in Africa is a huge problem. It’s also one that isn’t that hard to fix. For less than $5,000, ZAO was able to hire local experts to go into the town of Ntagacha, Tanzania, and change the town’s access to fresh water. Three springs have been provided and a well has been dug, as well as several latrines, and community hygiene education was provided for the entire village. When hygiene education is teamed with access to fresh water, the health of a village can be increased by 85 percent.

In a short period of time, ZAO has already made a significant impact on parts of Tanzania. We are committed to seeing this through until the problem is eliminated. And this is where you guys come in.

In order to raise funds, ZAO has entered the retail bottled water business (again, as a non-profit organization). We have an artisan well in North Carolina and are working to build our own bottling facility which will allow us to produce millions of bottles of ZAO water every year for retail sale, competing with Dasani, Aquafina, Le Bleu, etc… The price for ZAO water is extremely competitive; $1 for a 15 ounce bottle or $9 for a 24-bottle case. The difference? Every dime of profit that comes from the sale of bottled ZAO water goes directly to providing fresh water for people who badly need it in Africa. You get water, they get water, and everyone wins. If you’re interested in ordering ZAO water for your business (or, if you’re just a very thirsty individual), the contact information will be at the end of this post.

Also, we’ve had an donor come forward and offer a donation challenge; he is going to match every dollar we raise through the end of the year with one of his own, up to $500,000. So, if we receive a half million dollars in donations between now and December 31st, he’s going to write us a check for $500,000. Essentially, every dollar donated to ZAO between now and the end of 2005 will be immediately doubled. And, of course, it is all tax deductible, and you will receive all the necessary reciepts to claim a deduction on your 2005 tax statement. If you would like to participate in the ZAO donor-match challenge, you can give directly through paypal.

ZAO’s administrative overhead is basically nil. What we receive goes to help those in need. It’s a great organization, one that I’m proud to be affiliated with, and one that I believe strongly in. We really do have a chance to change the course of a continent in our lifetimes. If you guys are interested in purchasing ZAO Water, helping to increase our distribution, or simply giving directly to the efforts, feel free to contact us through any of the ways provided below:


Phone: 336-712-4008


ZAO Water
3812 Littlebrook Drive
Suite A
Clemmons, NC, 27012

Donor Match Contribution Site

Any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments.


46 Responses to “ZAO Water”

  1. Urban Shocker on November 1st, 2005 10:10 am

    Sounds great, will any of the water being available locally thru local retail stores in the Seattle area?

  2. Dave on November 1st, 2005 10:19 am

    We’d love to be. Getting our own bottling facility will be the launching pad for ZAO to take off nationally, where we can then compete in supermarkets and other local retail stores with all the big companies. As it stands, we’re developing local networks where we can provide ZAO water through outlets in a few specific markets before the bottling facility is completed. We’d love to have Seattle as one of those markets, so if we can establish contacts with the right people to make it happen, we’ll do what we can to get ZAO water bottles into the metro Seattle area and available for purchase.

  3. Evan on November 1st, 2005 10:25 am

    According to the ZAO web site, it’s a Christian organisation (they offer Christian education in developing nations).

    I couldn’t find the official charitable information, though.

  4. Dave on November 1st, 2005 10:32 am

    Which official information would you like, Evan?

  5. PositivePaul on November 1st, 2005 10:44 am

    I hear the All-American bottling company is having difficulties converting the former Olympia Brewery into a water bottling processing site. That property might become available again soon. The brewery buildings themselves are still for sale. It’s the Water, ya know 😉

  6. Evan on November 1st, 2005 10:56 am

    An IRS registration number would be nice. I’m more than a bit surprised there’s no official tax information on the site.

    I work for a US-registered charity, so I have a rough idea of what sorts of information one needs. If it wasn’t you who’d recommened them, I’d have already concluded that they looked dodgy and moved on.

  7. Dave on November 1st, 2005 10:59 am

    Well, if you want any evidence of a low overhead, almost all volunteer organization, look no further than our website. I almost didn’t even link to it. No one’s really proud of the site. Our energies have been focused on other things.

    I’ll get an IRS registration number and add it to the post. Anything else you think we should make available, feel free to add. We’re not trying to hide anything here.

  8. Feldor on November 1st, 2005 11:00 am

    Water for People is another organization doing similar work.

  9. Dave on November 1st, 2005 11:07 am

    Indeed, Water for People has a similar focus, and we applaud all the efforts they’re doing as well. We think ZAO has a few advantages, mainly the ability to raise income through the sale of our own bottled water rather than relying on donations. We’re certainly not trying to become some monster organization, though. We just want to see people who need water get it.

  10. Rusty on November 1st, 2005 11:16 am

    Water projects are an amazingingly effective use of money to improve the lives of others. I got to see this firsthand, a few years ago, while overseeing a project to get water into a tiny village in El Salvador. Many organizations are focusing on this need in the 3rd World, and appropriately so.

    Dave, best of luck in this worthy endeavor.

  11. Feldor on November 1st, 2005 11:16 am

    Agreed Dave. There’s lots of ways to skin a cat… Just so long as something gets done.

  12. Bob Montgomery on November 1st, 2005 11:46 am

    Shouldn’t this be filed under something other than “Mariners”?

  13. Dave on November 1st, 2005 11:47 am


  14. Russ on November 1st, 2005 11:47 am

    Awesome work.

    My wife spent 3 weeks in Tanzinia last November as part of a Lutheran World Relief coffee farmer tour. LWR works very hard to help the coffee farmers organize and sell their coffee to Fair Trade Coffee. LWR helps to organize the auctions, represent the farmers and help the farmers with business practice improvements.

    At Fair Trade, they pay the farmers a fair market price for their coffee co-ops, a feat which individual farmers cannot do.

    Very interesting business this coffee farming. It takes about a 5 gallon bucket of coffee cherries to brew a cup of joe. These farmers work 6 days a week, all day to nurture their crops and take beans to market. If the farmer has a good year, he’ll earn about $50 a year or about enough to send one child to primary school for 1 year.

    Coffee consumers, like Starbucks, Farmers Brothers, etc. buy coffee from these farmers at robbery prices to bring us coffee. They simply buy so much they can pretty much dictate price at the auctions. The Fair Trade organization helps to offset the prices by paying more, so in turn Fair Trade gets the best coffee from the farmers. They do take care of one another.

    I know I have not done this story it’s due. My wife does a presentation on Fair Trade Coffee and the LWR efforts that is very compelling. She does presentations around the area to help promote awareness, if your group or church would be interested, let me know.

    In the meantime you can help these farmers by simply buying Fair Trade Coffee at the supermarket. Starbucks does buy some Fair Trade coffee so that they can place the name on the labels but as a percentage of their coffee consumption, it’s pretty much a little, tiny number.

    Dave, as a suggestion…Try to team up with coffee shops who sell Fair Trade. They would likely sign up as many shops have already shown a penchant for making choices that benefit such causes. My wife might be able to point you to a couple of people who can help coordinate the efforts.

  15. Jeff on November 1st, 2005 11:55 am

    Man, there are times when I love this site. It’s actually most times. And this is one of them.

  16. Bob Montgomery on November 1st, 2005 11:59 am


    Thanks, Dave.

  17. DMZ on November 1st, 2005 12:04 pm

    That’s a cheap shot at Starbucks and unfair. Starbucks only buys ~2% of their coffee through Fair Trade, but this year ~30% and probably more will come from suppliers who meet Starbuck’s Coffe And Farmer Equity thing.

    Actually… never mind. I don’t want to fight. Folks, give Dave some money to go help the world.

  18. Russ on November 1st, 2005 12:13 pm

    I don’t want to raise a fuss about Starbucks and perhaps my comments should not be placed here, please feel free to edit them out along with what I’m about to post. Just know that Starbucks buys a huge amount of coffee and will automatically want the best price possible for themselves. Also, their emergence as a green bean buyer coincides with a wholesale price drop for green beans to the farmers.

    I do not believe everything a for-profit corporation says and that marketing data and hype are often not closely related to the truth. I also know that some big corporations also know a good thing to attach themselves to for reasons not altogether altruistic.

  19. Jason on November 1st, 2005 12:18 pm

    Well done Dave, I’ll keep my eyes open for ZAO Water. Wish I could do more, but my charitable contributions are already focused elsewhere (Defenders of Wildlife and such).

  20. Pat K on November 1st, 2005 12:20 pm

    Dave and others: You may also be interested to learn about Water 1st, a Seattle based non-profit organization doing water projects in third world countries, such as Bangladesh, Honduras, Ethiopia, etc. Their website is They are seeking assistance from people who are interested to help promote health, hygene and economic growth in third world countries by meeting our most basic need: clean water. They had a fundraiser this past Friday night at Benaroya attended by over 400 people. Water 1st is not associated with any commercial venture, so they concentrate on water projects to the poorest of the poor. They are also committed to making sure that the people in the local communities create the systems to pay for ongoing maintenance of the systems so the water projects will continue to function long term.

  21. Mr. Egaas on November 1st, 2005 12:29 pm

    It’s too bad the Mariners are so into selling 4$ bottles of Aquafina at the Safe… some connection with the organization would be so ridiculously money.

    I’m not sure who you know, but if you pull the right strings…

  22. Conor Glassey on November 1st, 2005 12:38 pm

    They sell Aquafina because they have a contract with Pepsi.

  23. Lokiforever on November 1st, 2005 12:50 pm

    Russ, DMZ

    As usual I’m impressed with the informed and varied discourse here.
    I do think ZAO water and Fair Trade coffee houses could enjoy a nice symbiosis.

    Starbucks is a for profit corporation that has supported Fair Trade for a few years now. And 2% of Starbucks is a lot bigger than a 100% of other participants / supporters. Both organizations benefit here.

    Yes, I’m a big fan and supporter of Fair Trade Coffees and Teas, with a cup this morning, having gone to school with the founders of TransfairUSA, and visited farms in Nicaragua. Wish my job had some redeeming social value I suppose.

  24. Tangotiger on November 1st, 2005 12:58 pm

    I agree with the other poster that if it wasn’t Dave specifically, most people would ignore that site.

    For those who want to check out the charitable status of any organization, you can go here:,,id=96136,00.html

    The IRS has a search utility, as well as a download file of all charities (almost 700,000!).

    FWIW, I cannot find Zao Water, nor Water 1st, but I do find Retrosheet. Clearly, all tax-exempt organizations seeking donations should make it easy for a contributor to verify its status, either by pointing them to the above site, providing the IRS 1-800 number, or whatnot. Since Dave is representing Zao, it’s likely that either its name is somewhat different, or that the IRS file is out of date (4 months old).

    My guess is that you have a lot of visitors to these sites from good people wanting to help, but thinking these things are nothing but scams.

  25. Thumper on November 1st, 2005 1:00 pm

    Before I make a donation, Dave, I’m just curious about something that was mentioned on the website but not in your posting – the Christian education aspect of ZAO. What exactly is this? Is it a big part of ZAO’s operations in African villages? Thanks.

  26. J.R. Caines on November 1st, 2005 1:25 pm

    Wow, awesome. It is good to see my favorite Mariners site supporting the efforsts of such projects. You guys rock.

  27. Scott on November 1st, 2005 1:36 pm

    This is a very worthwhile cause. I am a Youth Pastor at a church in Spokane, recently I went to a conference in Atlanta called Catalyst. As part of the program, they had a group of children from Ethiopia perform. The leader of their group, a young woman in her early thirties, shared about the need for clean water. She said that the women in their village will walk 10 miles a day, one way, to get water. The water is not clean to start with, but it used all day for cleaning, drinking, cooking, laundry, etc. For $3,000 a well can be built that will solve the problem. They took an offering and received $105,000, all of which went to building wells. What’s the point? This problem is something you can really change. Every little bit makes a large impact. I will certainly look for the new water!

  28. Jon Graves on November 1st, 2005 2:02 pm

    I was pretty excited about this until I read about the “Christian Education” aspect too.

    Why did you not mention this in your post Dave?

    Its clear that people in the third world need clean drinking water but I am not so sure they need Jesus.


  29. Evan on November 1st, 2005 2:21 pm

    I don’t think it’s necessary to post here that you won’t support them for the whole Christian thing, but I’ll admit I posted it because I recognise that it will turn some people off.

    I thought they should be given more information.

    And I probably wouldn’t have looked for the IRS thing if I didn’t happen to work for a charity.

    I’m going to stay out of the whole Fair Trade thing, too.

    Russ – you’re right to view statements made by for-profit companies with scepticism. You should also view statements made by non-profit companies with scepticism. They’re both trying to influence your opinion of them.

  30. David on November 1st, 2005 2:36 pm

    Why is it a big deal that they hear about Jesus? They hear about Him, make a choice to believe or not and it goes from there. It’s not like they won’t get clean water if they don’t convert or something. Whether they “need” to hear about Jesus or not doesn’t really matter as long as they get clean water, don’t you think? If you don’t want to support an organization because of their religious beliefs than don’t, God doesn’t want people to support something if they’re not happy doing it anyway.

  31. Jeff Nye on November 1st, 2005 2:40 pm

    At the risk of derailing this thread, re: David’s posting; the history of Christian missionary work (it’s difficult to tell how much emphasis is put on this from the information we have about ZAO so far) in the developing world isn’t a sterling one.

    Good works were done, yes, but so was a lot of forced indoctrination, abuse, and exploitation of poorly educated people.

  32. Jeff on November 1st, 2005 2:41 pm

    Enough, please.

    This thread is not for debating about the relative merits of this effort or religion’s role in society generally. Please use this thread to ask Dave specific questions you have about the charity, your potential donations, etc.

    Most folks are doing a terrific job of keeping said queries polite and not pointed. Speaking for all of us here (and our varied political and religious perspectives), please keep it that way. Thank you, drive through.

  33. Dave on November 1st, 2005 2:48 pm

    Okay, time to head off the religious talk that could take this thread the wrong way entirely.


    ZAO is a Christian organization in the sense that it is ran by Christians. It’s mission is, as stated in the post, to bring water to those in need and to end the diseases and plagues that have swept across Africa as a result of the lack of fresh water. If you would like to ask some direct questions about ZAO’s efforts, the best idea would probably be to call the phone number listed in the post. While I’m affiliated with ZAO, the last thing I want to do is mislead you guys and say something that is less than 100 percent accurate, so getting the information straight from Matt or Wendy is the best way to insure that what you are told is exactly correct.


    We certainly aren’t hiding the fact that we’re a Christian organization, but the purpose of ZAO is not to be a missionary organization, but a humanitarian one.

  34. Evan on November 1st, 2005 2:48 pm

    Thank you, Jeff.

    If you don’t like the organisation, don’t give them money, but you don’t need to explain why.

  35. Jeff Nye on November 1st, 2005 2:50 pm


    Thanks for posting, and my apologies if I contributed to the derail.

    It was just important to see where the focus of the organization was; the limited information we had didn’t make it clear what the priorities were.

    You should dig up contact information for a few of the smaller coffee chains (I know Cafe Ladro in Seattle does something similar to this already) and get in with them. It’s a natural place to start.

  36. J.R. Caines on November 1st, 2005 2:50 pm

    David said it well.

  37. Russ on November 1st, 2005 3:00 pm


    You should also view statements made by non-profit companies with skepticism.

    Right you are and I do view all things with a healthy dose of curiosity as to intent, ability and efficency.

    From what I know of LWR, they are amongst the best of charitable organizations at utilizing their very limited resources. What I also like about LWR is that they are not about giving away stuff. When my wife went to Tanzinia they were very stridently warned to not give anything to anyone they encountered. They were not give away so much as a piece of candy to a child. LWR works very hard at helping to raise the community rather the a person. They loan tools and money, they provide instuction and support. They don’t give anything away without a corresponding action from those they are assisting.

    One of the things about Fair Trade products that I find most intriguing is that the intent is to help the community by increasing the sale price to the farmer so that the farmer can buy local products he needs to farm and to hire help to produce more. By doing so the farmer is automaticaly raising the standard of living in his community by increasing the funds available. More people working and more people buying is the way to lift a community out of poverty.

    Charity is what we call it when I give dollars to LWR. What LWR does is not so much charity but providing help and knowledge so that the communities they reach out to can learn to make it on their own.

  38. Thumper on November 1st, 2005 3:41 pm

    I didn’t mean for my question to invoke either positive or negative comments in terms of the Christian education aspect. I was just asking a question. And Dave answered it. Sorry if I should have emailed directly, but I honestly just didn’t think it was that big of a deal. Thanks for the info.

  39. Evan on November 1st, 2005 3:56 pm

    Right you are and I do view all things with a healthy dose of curiosity at intent, ability and efficiency.

    I’m generally not that concerned with intent. I worry more about outcomes. If the guy trying to earn a profit does more good than the guy who’s just trying to do good, then I favour the profiteer.

  40. Pat on November 1st, 2005 4:06 pm

    It’s awesome seeing this project get off the ground, Dave. And it’s also awesome seeing other, similar efforts. I’ve been involved in bringing newly drilled wells to an Ethiopian people group fleeing genocide by going to the Sudan (imagine that, people going TO Sudan to escape genocide… the world’s a weird place), and also bringing fresh water to the poor in Nicaragua. It’s great seeing such efforts happening elsewhere as well.

  41. Russ on November 1st, 2005 5:03 pm


    With regards to for-profits, the intent is known. For non-profits, the intent may not be so evident.

  42. Nadingo on November 1st, 2005 7:15 pm

    Hot damn, I never expected to find something about water access in Africa when reading about my favorite baseball team.

    I’m currently studying at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, focusing on water resource management in developing countries. There are several students in my program who are very interested in this issue, and we’re always looking to bring speakers here to share their experiences. I’m sure there would also be interest from the School of Management in hearing about tying a retail business to a non-profit organization. Is there any chance that your friend might be anywhere near New Haven in the next year or two and would be willing to give a short talk on our campus? We have a limited amount of money available to cover transportation, if he happened to be passing through Boston or New York.

  43. Rich on November 1st, 2005 10:19 pm

    This whole thread reminds me of the “Starvin’ Marvin in Space” episode of South Park

  44. Christie on November 1st, 2005 11:04 pm

    Since my husband, Russ, mentioned me here I felt compelled to join your discussion.

    Dave, praise and encouragement to you and those at ZAO. When in Tanzania I also visited villages helped by LWR well projects and met many people, primarily women and children, who walked miles each day for clean water. It was the thing I felt most blessed to have upon returning home. Another benefit of having readily available water in these villages is that these marginalized women can spend their time on things more productive than hauling water.

    As an advocate and a voice for those I met in Africa, I try to use their words as much as possible. When speaking to Mr. Philip Tesha, a former President of the Killimanjaro Native Cooperative Union (a small coffee farmer cooperative on the slopes of Mt. Killimanjaro) I asked him what he wanted me to tell you. He replied, “Tell them to pay more for their coffee”, which didn’t surprise me, but he continued by saying “because if they knew we were suffering, they would pay more. If they only knew we were suffering…people would surely buy our coffee”.

    Mariner fans, I have never seen such faith in mankind as I did in Mr. Tesha’s eyes at that moment, and it is a moment I will never forget. I wish I had the same level of faith that he does that the solution is that easy. That the simple act of me telling you they are in need would prompt you to make a small change in your behavior to benefit them. As is evident from the dialog you are having, we are more skeptical than that. All I can do is to tell you that he believes in you, and to leave you with his words. I hope you hear his words …if you only knew we were suffering, surely, you would help us…every time you take a drink of water or coffee and that it causes you to think more about others in the world than yourself.

    I do not consider myself an activist, I am actually a business woman for a fortune 30 corporation, but as such I recognize the power we wield as consumers in the choices we make every day. Whether, as I, you are inspired by the grace of God through His Son Jesus Christ…or whether you are inspired by other persuasions in your life…I hope you can agree that we should not prosper at the expense of those who are weak and oppressed. Our need for inexpensive consumables should not come at the expense of the poorest among us, irrespective of our faith.

    Supporting reputable, professional humanitarian efforts such as ZAO water, Equal Exchange, or other terrific companies is an easy way to make a big difference.
    Thanks for listening.

    PS – In the area of Tanzania I visited 45% of the population was Lutheran and 45% was Catholic. The largest growing Lutheran church in the world is in Tanzania with 3.9 million members. Those I met thought we in the US needed Jesus and, like many others, see it as the largest mission field in the world. We should all be cognizant of who “they” are and what “they” need.

  45. Christopher Michael on November 2nd, 2005 12:32 am

    Considering I live in Phoenix, and therefore in the middle of a desert, I drink a lot of water. I’d have to say that if possible you need to grab some connections here as bottled water is a huge seller.

    And as a christian the religious aspect just makes me feel better about donating.

  46. Brian Rust on November 2nd, 2005 9:18 am

    Thanks Dave for bringing this issue and your group’s efforts to our attention. And Christie, I agree with your eloquent comment, except you mistated “our need for inexpensive consumables.” I think “our desire” might be more accurate. Perhaps discerning this difference is where your Tanzanian friends think WE need Jesus.