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Stepping Up Efforts to Address Water Issues

Diego Juan Rodriguez's picture

As recognized by the World Economic Forum at Davos earlier this year, water insecurity is one of the greatest risks facing the world today.  Increased water demand from growing populations and economies, combined with more uncertainty in supply due to expected climate change impacts, require a radical change in the priority we give to managing our water resources and systems to supply water to people.  Over the next two decades, water will be needed to feed a planet of 9 billion people and generate energy to meet increased demand. Burgeoning cities will need to provide water supply and sanitation services to 70 million more people each year; yet the quantity of water will remain the same and the quality is expected to decline in many places.  Meanwhile there is a water service crisis with 800 million people lacking access to improved source of drinking water and nearly forty percent of the world lacks access to even basic sanitation. 
 
As the world comes to terms with water insecurity, the need for smarter water management is rapidly gaining more attention. Companies and farmers are finding innovative solutions to deal with the links between water and food security, energy security and the environment. Governments are seeking better information to guide allocation decisions, provide adequate services to swelling populations in cities and make agricultural water use more productive. They want to access and use cutting-edge technologies to be able to manage water-related disasters and protect their people and economies.
 
This emerging demand for new, innovative solutions is forcing the global development community, including the Bank, to go beyond conventional approaches. Financial resources are not enough. We need to innovate, partner in non-traditional ways, influence the decision makers in major economic sectors, and leverage investments with strong analytics.  
 
The World Bank has several instruments to support the countries to face the increasing challenges. One such instrument is the Water Partnership Program (WPP), which allows that Bank to go the extra mile in bringing innovation to its projects, analytical and policy work.  Through this program we can design approaches at the basin level to bring water services to people but also put water at the center of energy planning, food security and the protection of the environment. We can help countries mainstream climate change considerations into investment planning and bring state-of-the art technology to reduce uncertainties, so that instead of reacting to climate change countries can begin to prepare for it. We can demonstrate how to improve productivity in rainfed agriculture and reuse wastewater in irrigation.  We can produce innovative analytical work to help countries understand trade-offs and synergies between water and energy and plan investments accordingly.

The program has now started Phase II, a scaled up and bolder effort to help countries build resilience to climate change and achieve inclusive green growth. Results from programs such as the WPP show us that a little ingenuity can go a long way to solving global water issues and ensuring that our investments are done well. The World Bank has a huge potential to shape the global water agenda through this work and to help our client countries ensure water security to support growth, poverty reduction, and shared prosperity.

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