Before you start reading this, I'd like you to do something. Go to the nearest water faucet and turn it on, just for a second. See what comes out? See what color it is, or rather, what color it isn't? How often have you thought about the amazing infrastructure that delivers clean (cold and hot!) water to multiple access points in your home and office?

In the United States and the rest of the developed world, access to low-cost, clean sources of water is so universal that we often need to be reminded of the benefits of preserving it. The city government of San Francisco helpfully notes that you can save hundreds of gallons of water per year by simply turning off the tap while brushing your teeth.

Just think how absurd that must sound to the more than 1 billion people on Earth who lack secure access to clean water, or even to the hundreds of millions more who do have access to clean water that has to be brought in from a well. Water usage takes on a totally different dimension when you have to haul it around by hand. Would you just toss hundreds of gallons of extra water on the floor while brushing your teeth?

The new oil
Water, not petroleum, is the world's most precious resource. Though we're not there yet, companies like Sasol (NYSE:SSL), Rentech (AMEX:RTK), Syntroleum (NASDAQ:SYNM), and others are working diligently to create petroleum-replacement fuels in quantities and at costs that can meaningfully displace our dependence on oil. But with water, there is no replacement.

The Motley Fool Global Gains team believes strongly in the power of the human spirit, and we believe it's a poverty for us all that one person should want for water. That's why we're launching a campaign to raise money for a dynamic organization called PlayPumps International.

What is PlayPumps?
PlayPumps is based in South Africa, and like so many great things, it got its start from the mind of an entrepreneur. Trevor Field, an advertising executive, saw an opportunity when he came across a machine an engineer had developed that used a child's merry-go-round to pump water. Mr. Field saw a way to turn such a contraption into a more complex watering system. He also realized that the mechanism could solve one of the real problems that has bedeviled governments and other organizations for years: developing a water pump that circumvented the various unreliable sources of power to operate it.

But Mr. Field also noted that in the poorest areas in South Africa, children had precious few alternatives to play. So why not combine the two into a water-pumping system driven by playing children? He fdeployed the first two pumps in South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal Province in 1994, and they're still working today. The cost to provide water to a person using the PlayPumps system breaks down to about $0.60 per year.

Global Gains is an international investing service blessed with members from around the world. Many of us have seen firsthand the brutal, wrenching impact that abject poverty has on children and families. Now, we've found a way to help give back some of what we get from the global community to those most in need of our help.

We wanted to find a charity with an international scope -- one small enough for our support to make a visible difference, yet established and broad-minded enough that we could be certain of its reputation, effectiveness, and appeal. We also wanted to be able to track our progress. But most of all, we wanted to find a group that truly had, in every way, the interests of its "clients" in mind. In sum, we sought out a Foolish charity, and after considering scores of extremely worthy groups (and we are considering expanding/renewing our efforts over time), PlayPumps leapt off the page to us. Children playing! Fresh, clean water where there was none!

Even better, PlayPumps is extremely efficient in utilizing almost every penny of its raised funds to deploy pumps. These aren't empire builders, yet their efforts have been noticed by such corporate partners as Sasol, Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO), BHP Billiton (NYSE:BHP), JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM), and Unilever (NYSE:UL), who join in supporting PlayPumps.

100 pumps in 100 days
Here's why I urge you to join me in giving today: PlayPumps is in the midst of a "100 Pumps in 100 Days" campaign, which runs through the end of June, seeking to raise $1.4 million (it costs $14,000 to deploy each pump). Running for the same length of time, we at Global Gains will hold drawings to give away a year's subscription to Global Gains*. You're automatically entered if you contribute to PlayPumps, and the sooner you do, the more chances you have of winning.

So that's about it: a billion people without water, a motley assortment of people organized to do something about it, and an ingenious device that gives children a place to play. To me, it doesn't get much better than that.

Bill Mann is advisor of Motley Fool Global Gains. You can try Global Gains free for a month with a no-obligation 30-day trial -- just click here for all the details. Bill owns none of the companies mentioned in this article, although he has already made a donation to PlayPumps' 100 Pumps in 100 Days campaign. Sasol is a Global Gains recommendation. JPMorgan and Unilever are Income Investor picks, while Coca-Cola is an Inside Value pick. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

*No purchase necessary. Sweepstakes end 6/28/07. Open to U.S. residents 18 years and older. For details on entry, including how to enter without purchase, see Official Rules. Void where prohibited.