“While the percent of population with access to improved facilities increased since 1990 in all regions, the number of people living without access has increased due to slow progress and population growth. In 2008, 2.6 billion people had still no access to improved sanitation facilities.” World Bank
Development banks play a large role in improving access to and optimal utilization of water. Through funding a number of projects and initiatives they are enabling people to escape the poverty trap created by lack of clean drinking water and energy. They come under a lot of criticism and receive a lot praise but their goal of lending money to states seeking to develop is a noble one. This series will detail what role banks play in improving water utilization.
The World Bank is the largest of these institutions and devotes a lot of funds towards its goals in water. It works on a number of different projects around the world through a number of different approaches, produces a large quantity of data, and publishes reports on its water initiatives.
World Bank total water spending has been increasing over recent years (see graph below) and reached $7.2 billion for their fiscal year 2011. They fund all types of projects with WASH receiving the bulk of funding. These funds are distributed to programmes in member states globally to solve rural, urban, and transboundary water issues.
Their programmes are broad reaching with 6 topical focus areas;
- Rural water because 80% of people without access to water are in rural areas.
- Urban water whose focus is important based on the need to keep up with rapid urbanization.
- Sanitation and hygiene including; hygiene, sanitation, sewer systems, and increasing wastewater treatment.
- Agricultural water management in order to improve efficiency and access to both irrigation and rainfed agriculture.
- Hydropower to harness the largest source of renewable energy on the planet, of which 80% is not being utilized.
- Water resources management so as to utilize the competing socio-economic balance of ecosystems to optimize benefits.
The bank has a number of different projects within these focus areas and many times they overlap. Projects range from small irrigation funding to long-term full scale basin integration. An example of a large scale initiative is the Nile Basin Initiative, an ongoing project since 1999 which includes the recently independent South Sudan. The World Bank oversees the funding mechanism from the large international donor community and promotes cooperative initiatives to manage the basin as a whole. An example of a slightly smaller project is the National Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Additional Financing in Peru. This project is aimed at developing sustainable methods of WASH sector activities in rural areas of Peru.
The bank is able to call on to call on a global network of experts to work on its projects. The Water Expert Team is able to provide support on a diverse range of water issues. An example of their work is the Workshop on Rehabilitation of Hydropower where they discussed what to do with old dams.
There is a lot of data produced by the bank and it has a great deal of charts data points and maps pertaining to development. This is a great resource for a variety of purposes on water and beyond. The data is not specific to water allowing for a broader understanding of how water fits into socio-economic development. The data is downloadable to an excel sheet and if you are feeling particularly nerdy you can play with the statistics to find correlations and other interesting facts. Two examples are the charts below that I made after downloading the data (EU, LDCs, and countries were randomly chosen). I encourage anyone to take a look and explore these data sets.
The bank publishes a number of papers and reports dealing with water (it even has a blog). The publications themselves range from sector based, such as managing groundwater, to regional specific pieces, such as health impacts in the Nile Delta. There is a lot of great information hidden within this, at times, cumbersome list and if you are searching for something specific use the advanced search on the right. One of my favorite publications is Water and Development: An Evaluation of World Bank Support, 1997-2007 which details all of the bank’s loans from that decade.
The Global Environment Facility or GEF is a separate entity but administered within the World Bank group. One of the GEF’s major areas of work is International Waters. The issue is important because water respects no national boundaries but states have their own rules on how to utilize it. The GEF supports capacity building, cooperative initiatives, and promotes climate sustainability.
The World Bank and GEF are working on all facets of water in the developing world. The bank is a great source of information and knowledge with a wealth of data for researchers and the public to consume. The bank seeks to foster growth and promote cooperation over utilization of water.