New World Bank - US Partnership to Boost Global Effort to Manage Water, Save Lives

March 22, 2011

Zoellick, Clinton Agree to Share Expertise, Technologies to Solve Water and Sanitation Crises

WASHINGTON, March 22, 2011 – The World Bank Group will work in close cooperation with 17 agencies of the US Government to support developing countries in managing global water crises such as the lack of safe drinking water and sanitation, diminishing aquifers, drought, flooding, and climate change impacts.

“Look at almost any poverty issue: You will find water. A lack of safe water and adequate sanitation is the world’s single largest cause of illness, responsible for two million deaths a year. That’s four people every minute – most of them children,” said World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick. “The World Bank Group is helping countries balance competing water demands for agriculture, energy, people, and the environment.  The enhanced partnership we are launching today with the United States will give a real boost to this work.”

The partnership involves federal departments and agencies such as NASA, which will share remote-sensing technology that enables countries to identify and measure their water resources, so as to guide strategies to manage them sustainably.

Under the agreement, the Bank Group and US government bodies will help developing countries enhance water security and improve water quality by:

  • managing water resources properly
  • delivering reliable, sustainable access to water of acceptable quantity and quality to meet human needs, as well as to support livelihoods, ecosystems and production
  • reducing risks from extreme hydrological events such as drought and flooding
  • rehabilitating of degraded watersheds
  • improving water use, irrigation practices and technologies
  • supporting water, sanitation and hygiene facilities to prevent disease.

Results of Bank Group support include Kazakhstan’s restoration of the Aral Sea ecosystem and  livelihoods of those depending on it, and China’s use of technology to draw less water from aquifers while increasing the productivity and incomes of 360,000 farmers. Technical assistance worth $7 million from the Bank-managed Water and Sanitation Program leveraged over $70 million from public, private, and community sources to provide eight million people with access to improved sanitation in India, Indonesia, and Tanzania.

Zoellick and Clinton were joined by Steve Hilton, Chairman of the Hilton Foundation, and Jeff Seabright from Coca-Cola, who made pledges to support water and sanitation programs. Also participating in the event via satellite from Cape Town, South Africa, were His Royal Highness Willem-Alexander, Prince of Orange; the Honorable Edna Molewa, South Africa’s Environment and Water Minister, and Joan Clos, Executive Director of UN-Habitat.

The Bank Group is the largest single external source of financing and technical assistance to governments for water and sanitation.  In 2010, it provided US$5.7 billion in water financing, $40.8 million in knowledge and technical assistance through the Water and Sanitation Program, and $754 million in guarantees for water investments through the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA). The International Finance Corporation has provided $1.4 billion in water financing to private corporations since 2003, and also provided advisory services on public-private partnerships for bulk water, distribution, wastewater management and irrigation.

Media Contacts
In Washington
Christopher Neal
Tel : (202) 473-2049
Christopher Walsh
Tel : (202) 473-4594
Natalia Cieslik
Tel : (202) 458-9369