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publication January 15, 2021

Water Security Diagnostic Initiative


About the Water Security Diagnostic Initiative  

The Water Security Diagnostic Initiative seeks to make best use of the World Bank’s technical experience, instruments, and financial resources to produce studies that influence senior policy makers beyond line ministries, help create the narrative on “Water Writ Large” and its importance in a country or region, generate diagnostic reports that dive deeper into water challenges in a country, and produce water governance studies for more mature water sectors where challenges are well understood and sector architectural reforms are required.

The World Bank’s Water Global Practice kicked off the Water Security Diagnostic Initiative in 2017. Eighteen water security diagnostics have been ongoing or delivered both on the country and regional levels, meeting the growing client demand for water security analytics.

  • What Is Water Security? 

    ​Water security is much more than physical resource scarcity. As defined by Grey and Sadoff (2007), it is “the availability of an acceptable quantity and quality of water for health, livelihoods, ecosystems and production, coupled with an acceptable level of water-related risks to people, environments and economies.” 

    In this way, water security focuses on the positive and negative outcomes—and not processes—for people, the economy, and the environment that are influenced by diverse aspects of water management. Social outcomes may include people affected by water-related disasters, children affected by water-borne diseases, conflicts around water supply access, or water-based recreation. Economic outcomes may include economic losses from floods and droughts, hydropower production, or the value of irrigated agriculture. Environmental outcomes may include ecosystem health, extent of wetlands and estuaries, freshwater quality, or aquatic biodiversity.

    Water insecurity slows growth and impedes development and human welfare. It causes global economic losses in different aspects including property damage from floods, food losses from droughts and water scarcity. Ecosystem degradation and pollution damage, although hard to quantify, poses significant threat to future water provision, especially in the context of climate change. 

    Water insecurity is typically driven by a combination of environmental, societal, technological, and governance factors. The most water insecure countries combine challenging hydrological environments with weak institutions and chronic under-investment in water infrastructure. Even when water is abundant and the hydrologic regime is benign, mismanagement (for example, misallocation or poor pollution regulation) or inadequate infrastructure investment can lead to water insecurity. As such, water security cannot be adequately assessed by any single integrative index. In addition, water security often intersects with other security issues, including energy security, food security, climate change and with national security.

  • A Framework of Water Security

    Considering the complexity in tackling water security’s various aspects, the World Bank has developed a conceptual framework of water security (Figure 2) to provide a new, comprehensive, and balanced view of water security, stressing the importance of the diverse social, environmental, and economic outcomes from water. Consideration of water sector architecture and performance—and how these determine outcome—leads to recommendations for improving aspects of sector performance and adjusting sector architecture for better outcomes. The analysis of sector performance considers (i) management of the water resource, (ii) delivery of water services, and (iii) mitigation of water-related risks. The description of sector architecture considers water infrastructure, and institutions (encompassing institutional arrangements, financing, and governance).

    Figure 2. Water Security Diagnostic Framework


    This framework provides a systematic approach and common language to examine and discuss water security across the World Bank’s projects. In addition, it provides guidance on how to consider water issues within a broader context of national (or regional) macroeconomic trends and development objectives, such as the SDGs.

  • Peru: Strategic Actions Toward Water Security

    Peru: Strategic Actions Toward Water Security

    Published in June 2023

    The Peru Water Security Diagnostic provides concrete, strategic actions to strengthen Peru’s water security that complement the government’s ongoing initiatives. The recommendations in the publication are based on the World Bank’s knowledge of and experience in the Peruvian water sector, several government studies, as well as specific assessments carried out as part of the Water Security Diagnostic (WSD) to close knowledge gaps.

    The brief also provides an overview of Peru’s water systems and outlines the impact of water on economic and social development, with a detailed analysis of the key challenges to achieving water security. It also offers a list of recommendations to accelerate Peru’s path to water security.

    *View the infographic


    Argentina Water Security : Valuing Water - Brief for Policy Makers

    Published in June 2021

    Water has several key roles to play in Argentina’s future economic development, so water security planning today is an urgent imperative. Hydropower is now Argentina’s second largest electricity source and a contributor to at least 0.2 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). 

    Argentina now faces critical water security gaps, from its unmet need for water supply and sanitation services, a vulnerability now highlighted by the COVID-19 crisis, to risks from increased demand and exposure to climate variability. In a complex macroeconomic context, now worsened by the pandemic, how should Argentina’s decision-makers identify and prioritize water security initiatives? This report takes a novel approach: using a macroeconomic model, it estimates the total impact on national GDP of current water security gaps. Finally, the report offers an alternative: looking at a broad range of additional water security interventions, it estimates their individual and aggregate impacts on GDP, along with their social development impacts, over the same period.

    Moldova : Water Security Diagnostic and Future Outlook

    Moldova : Water Security Diagnostic and Future Outlook

    Published in Nov 2020 

    Going beyond a focus on the water balance, this report assesses Moldova’s water security and identifies important water-related challenges that may hinder progress in economic and human development. Moldova’s water security is threatened by poor infrastructure and suboptimal institutional performance. Through an assessment of service delivery, water resources management and risk mitigation, and an analysis of institutional arrangements and sector expenditure data, this diagnostic establishes a set of policy recommendations on how water should be sustained and leveraged to support Moldova’s development. This report provides a new, comprehensive, and balanced view of water security in Moldova, highlighting the complex water issues that Moldova must tackle to improve its water security. It seeks to elevate water security as an issue critical for national development by providing stakeholders with a stocktaking and outlook on water-related risks, and opportunities in which water can contribute to economic growth and poverty reduction.


    Colombia: Turning the Tide – Improving Water Security for Recovery and Sustainable Growth

    Published in September 2020

    The report explores the impacts of water shocks on economic outcomes in the country and makes recommendations for improving its water security.

    Colombia is in the world’s top nine water-rich territories. Yet one-third of its population lives under water stress and, in addition, the country has one of the highest numbers of internally displaced people in the world. Water availability is out of balance with demand in a few areas in Colombia, and this trajectory will further increase water insecurity. Water pollution, increasing the occurrence of floods and droughts, and rainfall variability are major issues as well. There are also a few issues in the country’s water management and its use of water resources, which are holding back Colombia’s economic growth and hindering human capital accumulation.

    The report estimates that the economic costs of water insecurity during the next decade could be a GDP loss of between 1.56 Percent and 3.08 Percent. The study recommends several priority areas for the country to act on to improve water sector’s performance, including strengthening institutional framework, advancing territorial development, boosting resilience and leveraging a circular economy. The right investments in water security will generate jobs, and result in green growth and improved health for the poor and vulnerable. Focusing on rural areas will not only reduce migration to cities and the number of internally displaced people, it will also promote peace and security.


    Vietnam: Toward a Safe, Clean, and Resilient Water System

    Published in May 2019 

    Also available in Vietnamese

    This report assesses the security and economics of   water resources in Vietnam and focuses on reducing the threats of “too little, too much, and too dirty.” Specifically, the report focuses on increasing water productivity in irrigated agriculture, water security and services for settlements, and on how Vietnam manages water quality and pollution issues, as well as climate change adaptation, disaster risks, and risks from infrastructure gaps and vulnerabilities. Recognizing that water governance is fundamental in addressing Vietnam’s water challenges, this report analyzes the current governance of the water sector to inform the development of strategies, provide an integrated view of challenges, and identify the most fundamental shifts needed to achieve national water security. Going forward, greater emphasis will have to be given to policy enforcement and to the incentives needed to assure greater compliance. The solutions suggested by this analysis are clustered around seven recommendations. This report was developed in close cooperation with the Government of Vietnam.


    Pakistan: Getting More from Water

    Published in January 2019 

    This report builds on prior work to provide a new, comprehensive, and balanced view of water security in Pakistan, stressing the importance of the diverse social, environmental, and economic outcomes from water. The report highlights the complex water issues that Pakistan must tackle to improve water security and sheds new light on conventional assumptions around water. It seeks to elevate water security as an issue critical for national development. The report assesses current water security and identifies important water-related challenges that may hinder progress in economic and human development. It identifies unmitigated water-related risks, as well as opportunities where water can contribute to economic growth and poverty reduction.


    Watershed: A New Era of Water Governance in China

    Published in November 2018

    Also available in Chinese

    This report represents a synthesis of joint research conducted by the Development Research Center of the State Council of the People's Republic of China (DRC) and the World Bank. Building on the track record of research collaboration between the World Bank and the DRC on issues such as urbanization, the objective of the study is to provide Chinese policy makers with detailed institutional and policy options to support water security in the country. This study fills a critical gap highlighted in the World Bank 2013 China Country Water Resources Assistance Strategy by proposing legal, technical, and institutional changes to the current framework for water resource management. A new water governance approach is recommended that aims to balance economic growth with increasing water demand under conditions of water scarcity. By closely examining key water management issues in the context of China's rapid development, the study also aims to provide lessons relevant to other low- and middle-income countries facing similar water-related challenges.


    Kosovo: Water Security Outlook

    Published in June 2018

    This diagnostic report aims at highlighting current situation and water resources issues in Kosovo including their historical and geographic spread, key trends and plans in water-dependent or water-influencing sectors (energy, agriculture, drinking water, flood protection, environment, etc.), identifying specific plans and ongoing activities, gaps, overlaps, and critical issues for further analysis and support as well as provide a brief overview of climate trends.

    Beyond Scarcity

    Beyond Scarcity: Water Security in the Middle East and North Africa

    Published in August 2017 

    Water has always been a source of risks and opportunities in the Middle East and North Africa. Yet rapidly changing socioeconomic, political, and environmental conditions make water security a different, and more urgent, challenge than ever before. This report shows that achieving water security means much more than coping with water scarcity. It means managing water resources in a sustainable, efficient, and equitable way. It also involves delivering water services reliably and affordably, to reinforce relationships between service providers and water users and contribute to a renewed social contract. Water security also entails mitigating water-related risks such as floods and droughts. Water security is an urgent target, but it is also a target within reach. A host of potential solutions to the region’s water management challenges exist. To make these solutions work, clear incentives are needed to change the way water is managed, conserved, and allocated. Countries in the region will also need to better engage water users, civil society, and youth. The failure of policies to address water challenges can have severe impacts on people’s well-being and political stability. The strategic question for the region is whether countries will act with foresight and resolve to strengthen water security or will wait to react to the inevitable disruptions of water crises.

    *View the infographic


360° TOUR


*Click HERE to take a 360° virtual tour of some highlights of the Bank’s recent and ongoing engagements in the water sector of Colombia.


Towards a Safe, Clean and Resilient Water System in Vietnam

Towards a Safe, Clean and Resilient Water System in Vietnam