• Water flows through and connects the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs.) And tackling the water and sanitation crises is one of the most urgent issues for the global community to address.

    It is a crisis of ‘too much’, ‘too polluted’ and ‘too little’. ‘Too much’ because the devastating impacts of floods, exacerbated by climate change, is hitting poor people first and worst. ‘Too polluted’ because so much wastewater does not get collected or treated. And ‘too little’ because across the world today 2.1 billion people lack reliable access to safely managed drinking water services and 4.5 billion lack safely managed sanitation services. All the while, water scarcity could cost some regions up to 6% of their GDP, spur migration and, in the extreme, spark civil conflict. Climate change is expected to increase this risk, in addition to placing greater stress on water supplies.

    Water is at the center of economic and social development: it is vital to maintain health, grow food, generate energy, manage the environment, and create jobs. Water availability and management impacts whether poor girls are educated, whether cities are healthy places to live, and whether growing industries or poor villages can withstand the impacts of floods or droughts.

    Of the 2.1 billion people who do not have access to safely managed water, 844 million do not have even a basic drinking water service. Of the 4.5 billion people who do not have safely managed sanitation, 2.3 billion still do not have basic sanitation services. As a result, every year, 361,000 children under 5 years of age die due to diarrhea related to poor sanitation and contaminated water, which are also linked to transmission of diseases such as cholera, dysentery, hepatitis A, and typhoid. Water supply and sanitation is just one aspect of the broad­er water agenda.

    The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) build on the success of the last 15 years, while challenging donors and gov­ernments to address issues of water quality and scarcity to balance the needs of households, agriculture, industry, energy, and the envi­ronment over the next 15 years.

    Water security is among the top global risks in terms of development impact. It is also an integral part to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The world will not be able to meet the sustainable development challenges of the 21st century — human development, livable cities, climate change, food security, and energy security — without improving management of water resources and ensuring access to reliable water and sanitation services.

    Water security remains a challenge for many countries today coping with complex water issues that cut across sectors. Population and economic growth have placed unprecedented pressures on water.

    ·         Water-related hazards, including floods, storms, and droughts, are responsible for 9 out of 10 natural disasters.

    ·         Estimates show that with current population growth and water management practices, the world will face a 40% shortfall between forecast demand and available supply of water by 2030.

    ·         Today, 70% of global water withdrawals are for agriculture. Feeding 9 billion people by 2050 will require a 60% increase in agricultural production and a 15% increase in water withdrawals.

    ·         The world will need more water for energy generation but already today, over 1.3 billion people still lack access to electricity.

    ·         More than half of the world’s population now lives in urban areas and the number is growing fast.

    ·         Groundwater is being depleted at a rate faster than it is being replenished. By 2025, about 1.8 billion people will be living in regions or countries with absolute water scarcity.

    The combined effects of growing populations, rising incomes, and expanding cities will see demand for water rising exponentially, while supply becomes more erratic and uncertain.


    Last Updated: Oct 04, 2018

  • As the world’s largest multilateral source of financing for water in developing countries, the World Bank is committed to achieving the vision of “A Water-Secure World for All”. Under this vision, water is effectively managed as a critical resource for devel­opment to support agriculture, manufacturing, job creation, house­holds, and the environment. The entire population should be able to share this limited resource and have access to safe and sustainable sanitation and water services to enable healthy lives. In a water-secure world, countries can reduce and adapt to the impacts of a changing climate on water, while ensuring that each drop is consumed more efficiently.

    This work contributes to the World Bank’s twin goals — ending extreme poverty and promoting shared prosperity — by in­vesting in effective and sustainable water solutions that enable uni­versal access to sanitation and water, promote water security, and build resilient societies.

    With a portfolio of water investments of US$41.4 billion (US$29.4 billion of water-sector projects and US$12 billion of multi-sector projects related to water), the World Bank is uniquely positioned to achieve this vision, develop­ing and sharing global knowledge while amplifying the impact of lending through technical assistance on the ground.

    In support of this vision, the World Bank has identified five priority themes:


    Sustainability is ultimately about ensuring that available resources today can continue to deliver benefits to future generations. Our work focuses on two critical aspects for ensuring long-term sustainability of water investments. Firstly, the sustainable management of water resources. This means securing the long-term availability of water resources, considering the impacts of population growth, rapid urbanization and climate change. Secondly, infrastructure assets should be adequately built and maintained, to ensure for example that handpumps do not break down prematurely or that treatment plants are not abandoned for lack of adequate maintenance.


    Inclusion is the process of improving the terms for individuals and groups who are disadvantaged based on their identity, to take part in society. Water belongs to everyone and yet many are excluded from its benefits and often from ownership and control of this critical resource. Ensuring that a project is inclusive enhances the inclusion agenda requires better knowledge on the nature of water inequality, enhancing capacity and putting in place incentives that will result in better outcomes. Underlying such design also requires strong institutions that will hold state and service providers accountable.


    Expanding access to and improving the quality of services can only be achieved and sustained if the institutional arrangements provide the right incentives and resources and the organizations tasked with service delivery also have the requisite capacity. Institutions comprise the formal and informal rules of the game within which these organizations operate and, through them, impact the quality and sustainability of services. To the extent that providers of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and irrigation services are (quasi) government entities, they are influenced by the broader governance environment and the institutional architecture of the public sector that goes beyond the water sector. To strengthen institutions and accountability for service provision, we work to improve the rules of the game and incentive structures, grounded in local cultures, economies, and political circumstances.


    Financing needs to expand access to safely managed water to deliver on the SDGs. Sanitation services alone have been estimated at US $114 billion per year up to 2030. That’s vastly more than the amount historically invested to expand access, and much more will be needed to deliver universal access and to manage water resources and infrastructure sustainably. A two-pronged approach is needed. Firstly, improving the financial viability of the water sector to ensure that “water can pay for water”, while ensuring affordability of services for the poor. Secondly, leveraging commercial and non-state sources of financing will be critical so that the sector can tap new financial sources.


    Management of water resources and water facilities will increasingly be subject to shocks in years to come. That’s because climate change is predicted to increase climate variability and extreme weather events, such as floods and droughts. Resilient solutions call for strategies and tools at the country, basin, and project level capable of incorporating not only climate and disaster risk consideration into the analysis, but also innovative solutions to ease water scarcity constraints as well as socioeconomic and environmental considerations. Building climate resilience will require developing tools and approaches that can help save lives and livelihoods. Resilient water services (water and sanitation, irrigation, etc.) are better able to adapt to shocks and stresses and continue delivering essential services to the population. Fragility, conflict, and violence is another critical development challenge that threatens efforts to end extreme poverty, affecting both low- and middle-income countries. We also work with partners to enhance resilience in these contexts.

    In combination, these five priority themes represent the World Bank’s strategy to achieve the SDG tar­gets in support of global water security. They also form the core of a partnership for a water-secure world, which is supported by the Global Water Security & Sanitation Partnership. This is a Multi-Donor Trust Fund, launched in 2017, that enables the World Bank Water Global Practice to address the five themes across its global portfolio.

    In 2018, the 2030 Water Resources Group (2030 WRG) - a pub­lic-private-civil society partnership – became part of the World Bank Water GP family. 2030 WRG supports government-accel­erated reforms with the aim of ensuring sustainable water re­sources management for the long-term development and eco­nomic growth of their country.

    Strong partnerships were also the foundation for the High Level Panel on Water (HLPW.) Two years ago, the highest level of gov­ernment leadership - 11 heads of state and a special advisor - was convened by the UN Secretary General and the World Bank Group President to identify a sustainable path forward for water. The HLPW deliberated upon the major challenges of the sector and produced an outcome document – this New Agenda for Ac­tion calls for a fundamental shift in how the world understands values and manages water.

    The World Bank was closely involved in the entire process, pro­viding both intellectual leadership and support to the HLPW. As a legacy of the Panel, the World Bank will continue to lever­age the high-level partnerships forged with ongoing work in a few areas. We look forward to further ad­vancing the Valuing Water agenda, working with a wide range of stakeholders.

    The World Bank has played a key role in driving delivery when it comes to the SDGs. We continue to implement programs and projects across the world, convene a wide range of actors to achieve cross-sectoral solutions, and share our data, knowl­edge and know-how with others in service of a water-secure world for all.

    Last Updated: Oct 04, 2018

  • In FY16-18, the World Bank contributed to providing more than 47 million people with access to an improved water source and provided more than 24 million people with access to improved sanitation facilities. Below are some specific results from the World Bank-supported projects in countries.

    India: Andhra Pradesh and Telangana State Community Based Management

    The World Bank-supported Andhra Pradesh and Telangana State Community Based Management (APCBTM) project in India benefitted 605,052 people by strengthening the capac­ity of community-based institutions. The project developed and equipped 116,164 hectares (ha) of land with irrigation and drain­age services. In addition, the project developed and rehabilitated tank irrigation infrastructure, supported farmers to improve their productivity, and increased cropping intensity by over 30%.

    China: Water Conservation Project II

    The Water Conservation Project II tackled water scarcity issues through a series of interlinked operations in the Chinese prov­inces of Hebei, Shanxi, and Ningxia – three of the most wa­ter-scarce provinces in the Northern region of the country. To reduce net water consumption, the project reduced water with­drawal for irrigated agriculture in Ningxia and Shanxi Provinces, and groundwater overdraft in Hebei Province. In addition, the project also provided incentives to farmers to lower the agricul­tural production costs and increase the agricultural yield and val­ue in all three of those provinces. Water withdrawal in Ningxia was reduced by 22.67 million cubic meters (MCM) per year; groundwater overdraft in Hebei was reduced by 16.52 MCM per year; groundwater withdrawal in Shanxi was reduced by 5.80 MCM per year. New or improved irrigation and drainage services reached 594,200 beneficiaries, of whom 48 percent are women. Altogether, 290 WUAs in the three provinces have been created or strengthened by the project, comprising over 800 staff and more than 760,000 members (around half are women).

    Tajikistan: The Second Public Employment for Sustainable Agriculture and Water Resources Management Project

    The Second Public Employment for Sustainable Agriculture and Water Resources Management Project is helping address critical issues in irrigation and water resource management with the overall goal of improving food security for Tajikistan’s most vulnerable communities. Thanks to the project, 6,525 km of an on-farm irrigation network have been manually cleaned, which created income opportunities for almost 24,000 citizens. In addition, irrigation and drainage services have been improved on almost 190,000 ha of arable land. 580 km of secondary and tertiary irrigation canals have been manually cleaned, 44 km of irrigation and drainage canals have been rehabilitated, three major pumping stations have been restored, and riverbank reinforcement works have been completed. Consequently, irrigation has been improved in 920 ha of land.

    North Gaza Emergency Sewage Treatment Project

    In Gaza, despite the extremely volatile environment, the long-awaited construction of the new North Gaza Wastewater Treatment Plant is now complete and ready for operation, thanks to the World Bank-supported North Gaza Emergency Sewage Treatment (NGEST) Project. It will provide a long-term, sustainable wastewater management solution for over 400,000 Gazan citizens. The project also helped address the immediate threat to the 52,000 inhabitants living adjacent to the Beit Lahia sewage lakes that flooded the nearby village of Um Al Nasser, killing five, causing countless injuries, and displacing approximately 2,000 people.

    Panama: The Metro Water and Sanitation Improvement Project

    The Panama Metro Water and Sanitation Improvement Project helped improved the quality of water service for 80,382 beneficiaries in Colón and provided the National Water and Sewer Agency with a replicable model, using performance-based contracts, for effectively piloting and implementing new methods of doing business. The project increased water supply continuity from 13 percent in 2014 to 71 percent in 2017. The quality of service was also significantly improved. The project supported the extension of piped water to 2,115 households and rehabilitated water connections for 12,500 households.

    Burkina Faso: The Urban Water Sector Project 

    Significant results have been achieved through the IDA financed Urban Water Sector Project (UWSP: 2009–2018): about 700,000 people have gained access to improved water supply; about 440,000 people have gained access to improved sanitation; and about 120,000 students have benefited from improved school sanitation. And the utility’s performance has dramatically improved: ONEA (Office National de l’Eau et de l’Assainissement), Burkina’s state-owned urban water and sanitation utility, is today ranked among the top performing water utilities in Sub-Saharan Africa, with full recovery through revenues of operation and maintenance cost and debt service and partial contribution to capital expenditures, with a staff productivity of 2.9 staff per 1000 connections and a bill collection ratio of 97.7 percent. These achievements, along with the strengthening of the ONEA’s governance, has contributed to paving the way for opportunities to tap into commercial capital and private engagement, for the expansion of needed investments required to respond to increasing water scarcity and fast urbanization.

    Last Updated: Oct 04, 2018



Water Sanitation
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Trust-Funded Programs

Global Water Security & Sanitation Partnership (GWSP)

The GWSP supports client governments to achieve the water-related SDGs through innovative global knowledge and country-level support.


2030 Water Resources Group (2030 WRG)

2030 WRG helps countries achieve water security by 2030 by facilitating collective action on water between government, the private sector, and civil society.

South Asia Water Initiative

The SAWI aims to increase regional cooperation in the management of the major Himalayan river systems in South Asia.

Central Asia Energy-Water Development Program

The CAEWDP builds energy & water security by leveraging enhanced cooperation in all five Central Asian countries plus Afghanistan.

Cooperation in International Waters in Africa (CIWA)

The CIWA assists riparian governments in Sub-Saharan Africa in cooperative water resources management and development.

Additional Resources


World Bank Group Water Global Practice