Water for the World Needs Index Publicly Available for the First Time

The Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2014 calls on USAID to develop a data-driven “WASH Needs Index” that allows the Agency to compare water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) needs across geographies. The Needs Index is used throughout USAID processes on water and sanitation foreign assistance, including to identify eligibility for High Priority Country designation (one tool used in a multi-step process described below), as well as those countries for which additional Congressional notifications are needed when investing WASH funds.


The WASH Needs Index provides critical information to USAID and global partners about how to prioritize investments for the greatest impact. By analyzing information about the level of need for drinking water and sanitation services, water insecurity, and potential for impact on the well-being of and economic and educational opportunities for women and girls, the Needs Index helps USAID to meet the letter and spirit of Water for the World Act and fulfill Agency objectives outlined under the U.S. Global Water Strategy.

The WASH Needs Index is developed by compiling the latest available data for the eight criteria identified in section 5(f)(1)(A)-(H) of the Water for the World Act, with some minor revisions needed to ensure alignment with the broadly accepted global definitions used for the Sustainable Development Goals.

Aligned with USAID’s commitment to transparency and to provide new insights for others to use in their own work, USAID is publishing the results of the Needs Index for the first time. The data are available in an interactive online dashboard, enabling users to explore and access the underlying data and processed scores that support USAID processes and decision making. 

The Needs Index provides an important resource in designating Water for the World High Priority Countries; however, it is only one step in the designation process called for by the Water for the World Act. In order to ensure that U.S. taxpayer dollars are able to achieve maximum impact, the Water for the World Act requires that the prioritization process balances the need in a given country with the opportunity for impact. Because of the multiple considerations that go into the designation process, the Needs Index alone doesn’t determine which countries should be designated as High Priority Countries. Please refer to Annex B of the U.S. Global Water Strategy for a full overview of the High Priority Country designation process.