Urban Water Services: USAID Water and Development Technical Series


This brief is part of USAID 's Water and Development Technical Series, which provides guidance on important topics for developing and implementing water and sanitation activities in support of the U.S. Government Global Water Strategy and USAID’s plan under the strategy.

Cities play a key role in building a better future in an increasingly urbanized world. Improved urban services, such as reliable domestic water services, contribute to improved economic growth, health, and cleaner environments. The purpose of this technical brief is to provide guidance on factors to consider in USAID’s urban water programming.


  • Activities need to account for the fact that urban residents access drinking water from a variety of sources and providers, which can be complementary and depend on where they live.
  • Focus on capacity and efficiency improvements first, before making large investments in infrastructure. Use available public and donor resources to improve services and build credibility with customers before aiming to raise revenues and apply commercial principles to service provider improvements.
  • Ensure targeted interventions for the underserved, poor, and vulnerable. Informal areas are growing faster than providers can currently respond, and non-utility service providers often play an essential role in servicing these groups.
  • Activities must invest in the governance, institutional, and financial arrangements that support improved urban water services. Positive incentive structures must be embedded across policy, institutional, regulatory, and financial structures in order to achieve sustained improvements in service delivery.
Technical Brief
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Population Focus