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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. From droughts to extreme storms, climate change will exacerbate water stress and access inequities. These adverse impacts disproportionately affect marginalized populations, including women, indigenous peoples, and youth. Taken together, heightened water scarcity and more frequent disruptions to water supplies and sanitation services due to climate change can undermine economic growth costing some regions up to 6 percent of their gross domestic product, cause food insecurity, and result in instability, conflict, and migration.

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.
Photo Credit: Ana Castañeda, Forest Trends


USAID’s Approach

USAID believes that water solutions are climate solutions. Improved water resources management is one of the most cost-effective ways to adapt to climate change, while inclusive access to safely managed water and sanitation services and consistent application of hygiene behaviors are fundamental to household and community resilience to climate change. Water security is also critical for a net-zero greenhouse gas emission future.

Aligned with the U.S. Global Water Strategy, USAID is helping partner countries build climate resilient water supplies and water and sanitation services that sustainably deliver benefits, or are quickly restored in the face of climate shocks and stressors, and that also minimize greenhouse gas emissions.

To achieve climate-resilient, low-emissions water security and sanitation services that meet human, economic and ecosystem needs, USAID:

  • Supports policy reforms that incentivise service providers and basin authorities to change practices, including establishing minimum design standards that enhance resilience to extreme weather events, structuring user fees and targets for equity of service delivery, dismantling inefficient subsidies to industrial or agricultural users to encourage greater efficiency, and minimizing pollution and stormwater runoff.
  • Collaborates with public agencies that serve as official sources of weather, climate, and hydrology data to improve capacity in collection and analysis, close key data gaps, increase the continuous use of community-derived data, and improve access to climate information services.    
  • Strengthens the capacity of service providers and basin authorities to incorporate risk assessments into their planning process and training staff in adaptive management practices. 
  • Works with local authorities and service providers to understand and budget for additional costs associated with climate adaptation, including regular climate risk assessments, relocation and replacement of pipes, reinforcing the structure or materials of water or sanitation facilities, river bank protection, and commodity procurement, stockpiling and reinforcing supply chains for climate-induced shocks. 
  • Supports authorities and service providers to maximize the efficient use of existing budgets and resources, including reducing physical water losses, and to mobilize additional resources through blended grant funding with debt and equity financing or credit enhancements.
  • Promotes holistic behavior change among utility and basin managers to embrace new adaptive management and operational practices that promote climate resilience, as well as among households to use new technologies and conservation practices. 

Read more in the Climate-Resilient, Low-Emissions Water Security and Sanitation Technical Brief.


Key Documents

Water security features prominently throughout USAID’s Climate Strategy, which calls for a whole-of agency approach to 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.


Co-led USAID and the State Department, the President’s Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience (PREPARE) is a coordinated, whole-of-government approach that brings together the diplomatic, development, and technical expertise of the United States to support more than half a billion people in developing countries to adapt to and manage the impacts of climate change by 2030. Read how USAID PREPAREs for Climate Resilience.


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