Water security is a major challenge for many countries, especially developing ones. The numbers tell a story of water resources under stress while competition for their use is increasing – by 2025, about 1.8 billion people will be living in regions or countries with absolute water scarcity. Clean water and adequate sanitation is still far from reach for many of the world’s poorest. At the same time, more water is needed to produce food and energy to satisfy the rising needs of the earth’s growing population.
Securing water is a multifaceted issue which depends on a plethora of socio-economic, physical, political, and institutional elements that are difficult to align and control. It also requires a long term vision across several generations. And if we add the extra uncertainty brought on by climate change, we can be certain that securing water will not be properly managed unless we find ways to stay a step ahead.
What are our options?
First, we need to develop tools and global solutions that are innovative and forward-looking. We need to bring solutions to countries to help them anticipate the future in order to shape their investments and policies accordingly. Truly innovative solutions can be transformational. For example, using satellite technologies such as Remote Sensing can help farmers identify/predict areas where more or less water is needed and unlock the potential of rural areas and thus diminish poverty. Sophisticated climate change tools can be used to guide the design of water infrastructure precisely to factor in climate change as well as other challenges and deliver benefits for generations to come.
Second, we need to push for greater integration across sectors to enable countries to better explore the linkages between water, energy, food and the environment and make decisions based on tradeoffs and synergies. We cannot deliver water supply and sanitation to the poor without taking into consideration that the same water sources will be needed in energy, industry, agriculture and to sustain our ecosystems. The World Bank’s Thirsty Energy global initiative does exactly this and many others are following suit.
Third, we need to support programmatic approaches with multi-year engagements in strategic deltas, basins, and countries. This way, we will be able to work with countries on the type of strategic planning and investments that will make dramatic economic improvements in the long term. Our work in the Mekong delta and the Sahel are good examples of this approach.
Fourth, we need to strengthen water governance to help countries manage their water resources by building institutional capacity and explore innovative financing options. We must ensure that we can build long lasting institutions that can govern and manage across several political administrations.
The World Bank’s Agricultural, Climate Change, Energy, Environment, Urban and Water teams are all working to address these issues, as is the IFC. The Water GP’s Water Partnership Program (WPP) has been able to support such work across multiple practices and within the IFC in order to make it easier for our client countries and individual communities to develop a more water secure and economically prosperous future.
As we release the Annual Report of the WPP, the Water GP is grateful to the Governments of Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom for their generous support. The WPP will continue to be a key tool for supporting knowledge and innovation in implementation as countries and communities around the globe work towards a water secure world for all.
More examples of how the WPP is working towards water security can be found in its latest Annual Report