World Water Day is observed annually on March 22 to raise awareness about the vital importance of water to safeguarding human security and maintaining the health of the planet's ecosystems. This year's theme, "Water and Climate Change," highlights the urgent importance of strengthening water security and establishing access to a sustainable water supply in the face of changing climate conditions worldwide. The observance will also raise public awareness about the many ways shifting atmospheric and oceanic conditions are reshaping the global hydrologic cycle.
Increasing sustainable access to safe drinking water is a key objective of the U.S Government Global Water Strategy and USAID’s Water and Development Plan. In support of the water strategy, USAID seeks to provide 15 million people with sustainable access to drinking water services by 2022.
Globally, 663 million people still lack access to safe drinking water sources—the very resource on which a healthy, productive life depends. Even for those who have access, services are often inadequate to meet basic needs. Across sub-Saharan Africa, 30 percent to 50 percent of rural systems are nonfunctional within five years of being built, and utilities in urban areas often ration water servicing. Similarly, water is often contaminated from urban, industrial, and agricultural pollutants that can compromise nonpiped water systems, even those that are classified as improved water sources. Many of those who lack access to basic water services also live in conflict-affected states with poor governance, insecure tenure, high rates of poverty, and weak institutions. In countries with a history of conflict and civil unrest, the impact of refugees has further deteriorated the condition of water supply services.
The Agency helps partner countries reach the poor and assist the underserved in gaining first-time or improved access to basic drinking water services and climb progressively toward safely managed services. Access to a safe and reliable drinking water source is critical for health and livelihoods, and is especially important for unlocking educational and economic opportunities for women and girls. The reliable provision and management of drinking water also builds trust in local and national governments, and can contribute to local and national stability. Increasing access levels in rural areas has been a traditional focus of USAID investments. While investments in rural water supply will continue, the rapid pace of urbanization also requires increasing attention to urban services and utilities, particularly in dense peri-urban settlements and secondary cities and towns, often served by informal providers. Examples of USAID’s water assistance include:
As a result of USAID programs, communities around the world are benefiting from access to improved water and sanitation services, and becoming more resilient in the face of a changing climate.