Three people observe Lima’s Rimac watershed in Peru, which is seriously threatened by pollution, overgrazing, and illegal peat extraction.

Water Security, Sanitation, and Climate Change

Solar powered water pumps, like this one in Tanzania, are one example of climate friendly technology for water security. Photo credit: Dan Stewart via Save the Children

The climate crisis directly threatens the water security of regions, countries, communities and households worldwide and compounds existing challenges managing water resources. Most of the worst climate disasters are water-related. Improving water security is essential to blunt the worst impacts of climate change.

Water Security and Climate Change

Water security is under threat worldwide from a changing climate. Roughly half of the world’s population experience severe water scarcity for at least some part of the year due to climatic and non-climatic drivers. The increasing frequency of extreme weather events such as floods and droughts, alongside increasing global average temperatures, is putting further pressure on infrastructure and water resources. Many of the most immediate climate adaptation needs, particularly in developing countries, are related to improving water resource management and ensuring access to water and sanitation services. Read USAID’s guidance on climate-resilient, low-emissions water security and sanitation programs in this technical brief.

USAID Climate Strategy

USAID's Climate Strategy

Building a robust, climate-resilient water security and sanitation sector is one of the single most important investments to prevent these dire consequences. That is why water and sanitation feature prominently in USAID’s new Climate Strategy that will guide its work through 2030. This new Strategy takes a “whole-of-Agency” approach that calls on all corners of USAID to play a part in the response. USAID will work on the ground with partner governments and local actors to set the global trajectory toward a vision of a resilient, prosperous, and equitable world with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

USAID's Vision of a Water-Secure World

Through its Water for the World programming, USAID is broadening our approach to climate adaptation by helping partner countries strengthen sustainable, climate-resilient water and sanitation services by identifying and proactively managing risks of climate change; improving overall adaptive capacity; expanding access to at least basic sanitation which is critical to ensure healthy populations in the face of climate change; and investing in improved water resources management as one of the most cost-effective and important ways to adapt to climate change.

Water also has an important role to play in mitigation as reducing emissions in water and sanitation systems to achieve lasting and feasible net-zero and climate-resilient pathways USAID intends to leverage $1 billion dollars in public and private finance for climate-resilient water and sanitation services by 2030.

Climate and Water by the Numbers

Great strides have been made in strengthening safe water and sanitation systems around the world. However, climate shocks could derail that progress. Consider these numbers:

  • In 2021, 1.42 billion people lived in areas of high or extremely high water vulnerability. This is likely to get much worse without immediate and significant climate action, particularly as the global population is expected to increase 24% from 2020 to 2050.
  • Nearly 3.6 billion people lack access to sufficient water at least one month per year. As demand for water increases, more than 5 billion people could lack sufficient water by 2050.
  • Traditional water supply approaches won’t be able to help the 100 million people displaced due in part to climate change and conflicts over dwindling water supplies.

USAID Climate Resilience Activities

 

WASH and Climate Resources

 

USAID Activities:

Banner photo credit: Ana Castañeda, Forest Trends. Three people observe Lima’s Rimac watershed in Peru, which is seriously threatened by pollution, overgrazing, and illegal peat extraction. USAID and Canada’s Natural Infrastructure Water Security Project is strengthening regulations and addressing these threats to Peruvian wetlands.

Top image: Solar powered water pumps, like this one in Tanzania, are one example of climate friendly technology for water security. Photo credit: Dan Stewart via Save the Children