A number of plans have begun taking effect in Ethiopia in an attempt to provide some of the world's poorest people with clean water.
Donkeys carry water but add to the pollution
Around the world, solutions to the problems of unsanitary water - often proposed and carried out by NGOs - are being tried and finding measures of success.
In Karachi in Pakistan, for example, a whole self-managed sewage system has been developed.
In Ethiopia, one of those trying to improve the water of the Rift Valley is Hatamo Abdul of the Water Action Group.
"We have planned to drill about fifteen deep burrows," Abdul told the BBC World Service's One Planet programme.
"And we have plans to develop 52 existing ponds."
He also said a programme of planting 1.7 million trees was set to begin, in the hope of eventually replacing eroded topsoil that was being washed away in floods.
The added benefit of this is that the canopy traps rainwater, preventing the landscape from being arid and parched.
The Bilate river is highly polluted
"All this construction is raise the quality of life, and really to cater for people's hygiene situation."
In Ethiopia, 85 percent of the people do not have access to safe sanitation, and three quarters of the people simply cannot get clean drinking water.
People travel up to seven hours, some twice every day, to get the river the bisects the country - the Bilate in the Great Rift Valley which runs from the Red Sea to the Kenyan boarder.
The river is muddy and polluted, and fouled by the excrement of the donkeys that carry people there.
As a result, 80 percent of the illnesses that are treated in the country are water-related.
Much to do
But the charity can pay for only a small number of the improvements needed - and even when projects are completed, they are often only stop-gap measures.
Takela Kassa from Water Aid, part of Water Action, helped construct the first borehole in the Alara Burkram area, saving many villagers in the region from long daily treks.
Villagers walk many miles for water
But explained that there was a very real time limit on the solution.
"After fifteen years the population is going to grow, and they will need another water source," he said.