U.S. Global Water Strategy
Action Research Initiative


Filling evidence gaps in the water security, sanitation, and hygiene sectors is critical to accomplish the goal set out in the U.S. Global Water Strategy (GWS): Improve health, prosperity, stability, and resilience through sustainable and equitable water resources management and access to safe drinking water and sanitation services and hygiene practices.



What is USAID’s commitment? USAID’s Global Water Strategy Action Research Initiative is a flagship investment in generating evidence that will drive improvements in the effectiveness of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and water resources management (WRM) programming and investments by USAID, partner governments, and other funders and practitioners.

What is the plan? USAID is working through collaborative partnerships to conduct action research that will surface new sector evidence and ensure that findings are readily applied to WASH and WRM development and humanitarian programming and policy-making.

What is USAID currently doing? USAID has six centrally-funded research mechanisms (REAL Water, Urban WASH, WASHPaLS #2, PRO-WASH, SCALE, and MCGL) that build on previous work to generate new evidence and insights aligned with seven focus areas.

How will the evidence be used? USAID’s commitment to strategic collaboration, continuous learning, and adaptive management will ensure that the research findings will be used by USAID Operating Units throughout the Program Cycle—from initial strategy development to activity design, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation. USAID is also committed to disseminating research findings broadly and freely to all to maximize uptake by partner governments, other funders, and practitioners.

Focus Areas

The seven focus areas below are aligned with the Global Water Strategy Strategic Objectives. Key findings for each topic are coming soon.


GWS STRATEGIC OBJECTIVE 1: Strengthen sector governance, financing, institutions, and markets

Strengthening regulatory frameworks and institutional capacity

Filling evidence gaps on regulation of urban sanitation, rural water and sanitation service arrangements, informal providers, and services to the poor; and structures and incentives to reduce human resource capacity gaps beyond financial remuneration.

Mobilize public and private finance

What aspects of the broader enabling environment and policies increase mobilization of financial resources?


GWS STRATEGIC OBJECTIVE 2: Increase Equitable Access to Safe, Sustainable, and Climate-Resilient Drinking Water and Sanitation Services and Adoption of Key Hygiene Behaviors

How should area-wide sanitation interventions be combined to ensure sustainable uptake, reach scale, and target the poor, while ensuring wide, lasting coverage in various contexts?

Improving the performance of water service providers

Which institutional structures, leadership, performance benchmarking, and incentive systems support and motivate water service providers to improve services in diverse contexts?

Supporting the practice of key hygiene behaviors

Which innovative hygiene approaches incorporate both behavior change communication and changes in the physical environment?


GWS STRATEGIC OBJECTIVE 3: Improve Climate-Resilient Conservation and Management of Freshwater Resources and Associated Ecosystems

Supporting water resources management and rehabilitating watersheds

How should watershed management interventions be targeted, integrated, and phased to optimize improvements in water quality and availability?


GWS STRATEGIC OBJECTIVE 4: Anticipate and Reduce Conflict and Fragility Related to Water

Strengthening water security, sanitation, and hygiene in conflict, fragile and humanitarian settings

What are the most effective WASH interventions in humanitarian activities?

These topics were identified in the USAID Water for the World Implementation Research Agenda and the USAID Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA) WASH Research and Capacity Building Agenda, which identify research questions critical to closing key sector evidence gaps. USAID also has activities with action research elements and research awards that contribute to the Initiative’s broad objectives, but that may or may not align with the focus areas. BHA funds for action research are not limited to these topics.