On March 22, World Water Day, themes of innovation and partnership were central to the discussions of how the global community can, and must, work better together to meet future water needs around the world.

Secretary Clinton made a number of key points in her address at the State Department, including:

  • Water is at the heart of our efforts to preserve the environment that sustains us all, and water is a central concern when we think about how climate change will impact future generations.
  • That while we have met the Millennium Development Goal to cut in half the proportion of people living without access to safe drinking water, with this progress comes a stark reminder of how much more we have to do.  At this rate, nearly 700 million people will still lack access to clean water in 2015.
  • The National Intelligence Council report on Global Water Security (pdf, 574KB) demonstrates how imperative water is to our future peace, security, and prosperity.
  • As the world’s population continues to grow, demand for water will go up, but our freshwater supplies will not keep pace.
  • A new public-private partnership has been formed to help answer that call for leadership and to expand the impact of America’s work on water; to that end, the State Department is a founding partner of The U.S. Water Partnership, launched this World Water Day, which brings together a diverse range of partners from the private sector, the philanthropic world, the NGO community, academic and expert institutions, and the government.

At USAID, we are focusing on strengthening partnerships and creating new ones to meet water needs while integrating our efforts across four key sectors:  food security, global health, climate change and conflict mitigation. Our initiatives have included innovative approaches like the WASH for Life Partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Through that partnership, we are working to identify, test and help scale evidence-based approaches for cost-effective and sustained services in developing countries. As a partner in the new U.S. Water Partnership, we hope to make a significant contribution through sharing a wide range of water related information.

Our efforts to link our water programs with food, health, and climate change include work in Haiti where USAID’s programs are helping to protect Haitians from water-borne diseases such as cholera. We support a range of projects to improve health, from increasing access to potable drinking water to promoting positive hygiene behaviors such as regular hand washing. We are also helping farmers use water more efficiently, protecting Haiti’s watersheds—a critical source of water— and rehabilitating irrigation systems that provide water to as much as 15,000 hectares of crops. We have planted thousands of trees to reinforce riverbanks and prevent flooding, saving lives and properties in Haiti’s productive plains.

Other focus areas include the application of science and technology, the development of new approaches to finance, integrating gender and water programs, and increased emphasis on sanitation. Examples of this work include:

  • In the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia,  USAID and NASA have an ongoing efforts to work together to use earth science and satellite technology to analyze water scarcity, water management, ground water depletion, and the impact of climate change on water resources
  • In Indonesia, USAID is supporting the use of micro credit to increase access to clean water. The GOI has committed to support the addition of 10 million new water supply connections. One constraint to increased access for low income households is the upfront connection fee charged by municipal water companies. USAID provided technical assistance to support linkages between water utilities and local banks in enabling micro credit for water connection to the low income households.
  • In Ethiopia, USAID is planning an effort to link water point development with peace building work, strategically developing water access in areas with a history of violence. Water point development and engagement will be linked to women’s groups, to empower women as peace builders and to create further positive links between communities.
  • In Madagascar, the WASH Everywhere initiative will create demand for sanitation using community-led total sanitation to end open defecation in combination with sanitation marketing.

In developing and implementing programs in these focus areas, innovation and partnering are key to success. Between now and next World Water Day, we expect to make significant progress.