Entrepreneurs bring clean water to village

By Lee Schoenbart


Imagine walking two miles for a bottle of dirty drinking water — just to have water. That’s a sad fact for more than a billion people on the planet. Fortunately, that truth is intolerable to local resident Jeff Church, a hands-on philanthropist, and his socially conscious family.

Last year, Church, along with his brother-in-law, David Perez of Del Mar, and business partner, Michael Stone of La Jolla, formed Nika Water Co., producers of Nika Purified Water and its nonprofit entity, The Nika Charities. Their goal for Nika: to achieve $1 million in sales annually so 100 percent of its profits, after taxes and costs, will be directed to potable water projects in the poorest nations.

Almost one year later, Nika team members, along with San Diego-based Project Concern International, a nongovernmental organization (NGO), traveled to Nicaragua to bring clean water to more than 700 people, 100 homes, two schools and two health clinics of a local village outside the city of Jinotega for the first time.

The engineering feat involved piping water out of the upper elevations of a 3,000-foot mountainside from previously inaccessible aquifers within the mountain through a concrete channel and into large reservoir tanks. The water was then distributed through a PVC pipe system into the homes, schools and clinics. Nika, Project Concern and the local community spent approximately $160,000 on the total project.

“Seventy percent of the people in Nicaragua live on less than a dollar a day, so it’s a very impoverished country,” Church said. “Jinotega is up in the mountains and pretty remote. We flew to Managua and drove four hours up into the mountains to a village, and then from there we drove another three hours.

“These people never had (running) water,” he said. “A typical way they get water is the women and children walk a couple miles downhill in a mountainous area and carry a 60-pound dairy can up a one- to two-mile hill, and the water they get is really polluted. All the sewage from the village is going into the water. When you see what they’re drinking and they have to spend hours to go get that ...

“So these people now, it’s just transformed their lives,” Church said, “because instead of spending hours walking downhill and getting oftentimes polluted water, they’re able to have water come right into their homes.”

Sadly, or unknowingly, one flush of the average American toilet is the 3 to 5 gallons of water people in the developing world get for an entire day, if they’re that fortunate. In stark contrast, Americans use 100 gallons each day. Church said half of the world’s population doesn’t have running water in their homes.

“We look at it as clean water is a basic human right,” Church said. “There’s over a billion people in the world that don’t have access to clean water, and they should. From Nika’s perspective, we’ve made that our passion to want to help with the profits from the sale of our bottled water, to use those profits to bring clean water to people that don’t have it.”

On tap for Nika is another collaboration with Project Concern, this time in Tanzania. Nika also works with the NGO Free the Children, and together they’re building a school in Kenya.

“The school has water systems that are on top of the roofs of the school buildings so they can catch the water when it rains and we put it into storage tanks,” Church said.

Church looks forward to Nika’s return to Africa.

“I would like to go into really bad areas,” he said, “failed areas in terms of being able to bring in clean water to the remote areas of Ethiopia and Malawi because people really are dying for lack of clean water.

“In Nicaragua, they had water,” he said, “albeit somewhat polluted and they had to walk a long way for it, but they weren’t dying like they’re dying in Ethiopia. There’s 4,000 people dying every day because of a lack of clean water, and I would really like to go into one of those areas with Nika and invest in a project that you could save lives and not just transform lives.”

Nika Water, bottled in the Sierras and currently sold in 250 Southern California stores, including Jimbo’s, will soon be available in Henry’s, Whole Foods, Tully’s Coffee and Baja Fresh restaurants.

For information about Nika Water’s projects, call (800) 545-5841 or e-mail info@

To learn more, visit


To watch a clip of Church’s NIKA Water team turning on the tap for the first time in Jinotega, Nicaragua, go to


Clips of Walk for Water 2010 and San Diego Walk for Water can be viewed at