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Water Resources Management
Water Supply & Sanitation

At a Glance
Water is at the center of economic and social development. It is the common denominator across economic sectors including energy, industry, and agriculture. Good management of water resources will be central to green growth for all. The global water challenges are becoming more complex within a changing climate:

o Feeding a planet of 9 billion by 2050 will require better water use in agriculture. It is estimated that feeding the world will require approximately 50 percent more water in 2050.

o Energy demands will more than double in poor and emerging economies in the next 25 years. About 18 percent of all energy comes from hydropower. Yet, Africa exploits only 7 percent of its potential.

o More than 50% of the world population is now living in urban areas, demanding more and better water. At the same time, at least 780 million people lack access to improved water and 2.5 billion remain without basic sanitation.

o By 2025, nearly two-thirds of countries will be water-stressed and 2.4 billion people will face absolute water scarcity.

What We Do: World Bank Group Engagement in Water
• The World Bank Group is the largest external source of finance for water supply and sanitation, irrigation and drainage, water resources management and other water-related sectors.  It also provides advisory and analytical support to client countries.

• The active water portfolio has been on a growing trend since 2003, representing a significant part of the World Bank’s lending. FY12 approvals amounted to US$5.8 billion after a peak of US$7.5 billion in FY11.

• Projects approved in FY12 aim to improve access to water supply and sanitation, flood management and modern irrigation services through water sector reforms and institutional strengthening.

o An example is the US$155 million Kerala RWSSP II Project which will directly benefit 1.15 million people with water supply interventions, and 690,000 people with sanitation services.

o There is also a focus on transformational engagements which seek to optimize spatial, green and co-benefits among water and other infrastructure sectors. The Mozambique Water Resources Development project, for example, combines multi-purpose use of water and governance components to increase the yield of the Corumana Dam.

The World Bank Group is placing water management at the center of its efforts to help countries adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change.  It also seeks to ensure that water issues are effectively addressed in related sectors, such as the environment, agriculture, and energy:

o As part of efforts to help countries increase food security, the World Bank is increasing assistance to agricultural water management through the US$1.2 billion Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP).


o The Bank is exploring the linkages between water and energy through an initiative that aims to analyze and quantify the economic impact and tradeoffs of their nexus. This effort is part of the Bank’s Green Growth Knowledge Platform.

Bringing more innovation in water is resulting in low-cost technology that yields great benefits.

o For example, the Bank worked with China to use remote sensing to help estimate the amount of evapotranspiration from agriculture and designed a new system of water rights based on that data

o The World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program partnered with the UN and others to help Liberia map all existing water points by sending 150 data collectors on motorbikes equipped with simple android phones using special software designed by an organization called Water for People. In six months, more than 10,000 water points were mapped, and the information provided is helping the government and partners to develop the country’s water investment plan. 

o The World Bank’s Water Partnership Program is helping countries as diverse as Uganda, Mali, Nigeria, and Brazil to promote growth by investing in water for agriculture. For example, a new methodology was applied in Egypt’s wastewater sector to identify opportunities for safe water reuse in agriculture under revised WHO guidelines. 

Partnerships with donors are crucial to leveraging advisory and operational assistance for client countries. These partnerships include:

o The Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) supports governments in scaling up improved WSS services, and hygiene programs for the poor. WSP provides technical assistance, capacity building, and leverages knowledge and partnerships through 125 technical staff in 24 countries. In FY12, WSP’s support amounted to US$35 million for 24 countries.

o The Water Partnership Program (WPP) is a US$23.8 million multi-donor program funded by the Governments of the Netherlands, Denmark, and the United Kingdom.  The WPP supports the Bank’s efforts to reduce poverty through improved water resources management and service delivery. During 2011, the WPP approved US$19.6 million for 214 activities in 62 countries. This included support for more than 40 percent of the Bank’s analytical work in water, supporting and influencing almost US$11.5 billion in Bank financing. The WPP is planning for a 4-year second phase that will be larger in scope and size and will add a third objective of climate resilient green growth.

o The Global Partnership on Output-Based Aid (GPOBA) is a multi-donor program that aims to increase access to water and sanitation services for the poor through results-based financing that ties disbursement of public funding (mostly in the form of subsidies) to the achievement of clearly specified services or outputs. Twenty-two output-based aid (OBA) schemes in the water and sanitation sector with Bank Group participation are projected to reach 3.9 million beneficiaries.

Strategy and Future Directions

A strategic review of the Bank Group’s involvement in the water sector, Sustaining Water for All in a Changing Climate (2010), reaffirmed the relevance of core business themes: infrastructure for access, integrated water resources management, and capacity-building for results-based decision-making. In this context, the World Bank is defining a vision for water that integrates approaches for better results and places increased emphasis on:

• Addressing water issues of global significance such as water-enabled food security, water-smart energy production and upstream optimization.

• “Going deep” on the most water-challenged countries and advising clients on managing water allocations between sectors – with an emphasis on the poor.

• Positioning water at the center of the dialogue on green growth for all and enabling other sectors such as agriculture, energy, health and social development to be water-smart.

• Delivering within the core water sector by supporting water supply and sanitation strategies and scaling up hydropower for energy generation and other benefits such as flood control and adaptation to climate variability.

• Ensuring that all water-related investments address poverty, gender and climate risk and are financially sustainable.


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Contact: Cathy Russell: (202) 458-8124, 

Updated September 2012  




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