"Today, billions of people around the world do not have access to clean, safe water. And in the coming years, climate change, population growth, urbanization, and environmental degradation will only drive that number higher."
– Vice President Kamala Harris’s Global Water Security Action Plan announcement
On June 1, 2022, Vice President Harris stepped up to the podium and announced a historic White House plan to elevate water security as a foreign policy priority. Globally, 1 in 3 people lack access to safe drinking water, and nearly 1 in 2 lack a decent toilet. And with an accelerating climate crisis adding pressure on water resources, half of the world’s population is expected to face severe water stress by 2030.
Connecting the threats of water insecurity to U.S. national security, the White House action plan outlines strategic pillars and resources to advance sustainable access to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) worldwide.
"The Biden-Harris Administration recognizes the critical role of sustainable water systems and the transformational power that water access has in the life of each person on earth. From its most basic role as the source of life to its advanced role in powering global economies, water matters."
– Global Water Security Action Plan Fact Sheet
Everything we do at Water For People comes from the belief that everyone should have access to clean water and sanitation services, forever. We call our sustainable approach Everyone Forever. Everyone means every family, health clinic, and school in a district has water and sanitation services. Forever means water and sanitation services are sustainable and local districts and communities can maintain them for generations to come.
Earlier this year, Water For People joined the White House in discussions that led to this action plan and policy prioritization. The plan emphasizes the importance of affordable and sustainable WASH services, locally-led solutions, and addressing the inequity that results from water insecurity – all cornerstones of our Everyone Forever work.
White House Action Plan Pillar 1: Advancing U.S. leadership in the global effort to achieve universal and equitable access to sustainable, climate-resilient, safe, and effectively managed WASH services without increasing greenhouse gas emissions.
Water For People is unequivocally committed to safe, sustainable, and locally-managed WASH services. We focus on protecting water supplies, training local mechanics, and establishing supply chains for parts. We think about long-term projects like advocating for national water policies, creating local water and sanitation utilities, and developing accounts to fund future repairs. And we don’t call our work finished until we’re confident everyone has water that will flow long after we leave an area.
Environmental stewardship and climate resiliency are embedded in all our interventions and partnerships. From too little to too much water, no place where we work is immune to the hazards of climate change. In the face of increasingly unpredictable and extreme weather events, climate-resilient water and sanitation systems are more critical than ever for ensuring sustainable access.
In India, Water For People navigates water contamination risks in the flood-prone state of Bihar. During a flood, many water handpumps become submerged and contaminated in villages – causing outbreaks of waterborne diseases such as diarrhea and cholera. Thinking about climate-resilient systems, we construct the handpumps on raised platforms. When flooding occurs, the platforms are above the increasing water levels and people can continue safely collecting water from the raised handpumps.
Read more about WASH and climate resilience, including country-specific case studies like India’s, in our Climate Change, Water Resources Management, and WASH joint working paper.
White House Action Plan Pillar 2: Promoting sustainable management and protection of water resources and associated ecosystems to support economic growth, build resilience, mitigate the risk of instability or conflict, and increase cooperation.
We understand all too well the interconnectedness of WASH access with the environment, health, education, and economic prosperity. Unprotected water sources can become contaminated or run dry, causing poor health or the loss of nearby, accessible water. Time spent fighting illness or walking to collect water from further distances leads people to miss opportunities for income-generating activities or school. The World Health Organization estimates $260 billion in economic losses due to poor water.
In Uganda, degraded wetlands pose a threat to the groundwater supply of water for communities. Water For People brought together stakeholders from the government, private sector, and communities to develop watershed restoration plans to protect the environment and water sources while strengthening livelihoods. Now, alongside restoration projects, environmentally appropriate agricultural work and fish farming provide income opportunities and promote sustainable access to water for the area.
Read more about the Uganda wetlands restoration case study in The Case for Source Water Protection in WASH Systems: Entry Points and Opportunities.
White House Action Plan Pillar 3: Ensuring that multilateral action mobilizes cooperation and promotes water security.
Water For People believes collectively we can achieve much more than we can alone. We want to spread our impact beyond the districts and countries where we currently work – scaling the Everyone Forever model. That means engagement in sector collaborations, on the ground with local governments and community organizations, and partnering with national governments on policy and technical activities. The result is that more people will have access to sustainable WASH services – faster.
In Malawi, Water For People, with funding from UNICEF, provided technical assistance to the government to develop a climate-resilient WASH financing strategy. Identifying gaps in funding and solutions, this strategy brings together stakeholders and prioritizes sustainable water, sanitation, and hygiene services at the highest level.
Read more about our collaborative work in Malawi in an interview from Business Insider.
"At current rates of progress, UNICEF and the World Health Organization estimate that by 2030, 1.6 billion people will be left without safely managed drinking water services, and 2.8 billion will not have safely managed sanitation."
– Global Water Security Action Plan Fact Sheet
2030 represents the target year for United Nations member countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, ultimately creating a better world by eradicating poverty, ensuring equality, and protecting the environment. Water For People is focused on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 "ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all."
We applaud the Biden-Harris Administration’s prioritization of water access for all in the midst of so many troubling world issues. We recognize the enormity of the task ahead with achieving this target by 2030. This need for monumental, life-changing progress requires partnership, commitment, resources, and the unwavering belief that we can change the world.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Support Water For People by investing in sustainable water and sanitation access.
Continue exploring the issues:
- White House Global Water Security Action Plan
- White House Global Water Security Fact Sheet
- Water For People’s Destination 2030 Strategy
- Water For People Joint Working Paper on Climate Change, Water Resources, and WASH Systems
- The Case for Source Water Protection in WASH Systems: Entry Points and Opportunities collaborative paper
- The WASH Room, Water For People’s website dedicated to sharing WASH resources and learnings