Almost one-fifth of the population does not have access to safe drinking water, and the problem is affecting children most of all; water-related diseases are the second leading cause of death for children worldwide.
"People are very willing to give a dollar for a glass of tap water," said Holly Elfman, volunteer city coordinator for the project. "It's a very noble cause. It's a very serious, serious situation, and the restaurant agency overall has grabbed hold of it."
More than 1,500 restaurants nationwide, including about a dozen in Danville and Alamo, will participate in the Tap Project - a UNICEF initiative - from March 16-22.
"I'm happy to be part of this thing," said Mehriar Hamzeh, owner of Uptown Cafe on Hartz Avenue. "We just have to step up for the kids. If we don't get them to grow up right they can't think right, and they can't live right, and they can't do anything good for the world."
Participating restaurants are given cards to place on each table that explain the issue and the project's goal. On the back of the cards customers can write in how much they'd like to donate.
For each dollar donated, 93 cents goes directly to UNICEF water projects such as water lines, solar-powered pumps, filter straws, dehydration packets and emergency urgent relief. According to UNICEF statistics, every dollar provides 40 days worth of clean drinking water for a child.
The funds raised will go to the areas in the most need. Poor nations in Africa, micro Asia and Central America are hit particularly hard by the water crisis, Elfman said.
"It's because the country doesn't have the infrastructure, or it's because they've been made refugees or because there's war going on," she explained. "Those are some of the reasons why people don't have access to clean water."
Children, who are more susceptible to disease than adults, are perishing from dysentery, diarrhea, dehydration and other water-related diseases. The crisis also robs children - particularly the girls - of the opportunity to go to school, because they must instead spend their time fetching water for the village.
Global warming is escalating the crisis. Floods cause fresh water to mix with salt water, making it unsuitable to drink. And droughts, for obvious reasons, also worsen the problem. The United Nations estimates that by 2050 the number of people without safe drinking water will be twice what it is today.
"The water situation gets more and more dire," Elfman said. "Some people say water's going to be the new oil in the future. Water's going to be what people war over and demand the most."
The Tap Project debuted last year in New York City as a one-day event, which raised $100,000. The project has expanded out to the rest of the country and will last a week.
This year the goal is to raise $1 million nationwide, which Elfman said would save millions of children's lives.
"This is a really good community here in Alamo," said Michael Huggins, restaurant manager at Xenia, which is participating. "If they do see the same concept as myself, I'm sure they will be quite happy to participate."