As the Aral Sea shrank away and the ecosystem turned to desert, villages like Akespe, Kazakhstan were forced to adapt. | Credit: Kevin Adkin

How USAID is Advancing Climate Solutions on the Way to a Water-Secure World

By Global Waters

Water and climate change are inextricably linked. From rising sea levels to increasingly frequent and severe floods and droughts, climate change affects water access, availability, and quality. As a result, climate-driven disruptions to water supplies and sanitation services not only threaten to weaken food security and undermine economic growth, but also exacerbate instability, conflict, and migration. 


USAID believes that climate solutions are water solutions — and that investing in water security is essential to building climate resilience. 


Guided by the U.S. Government Global Water Strategy and USAID’s Climate-Resilient, Low-Emissions Water Security and Sanitation Technical Brief, USAID is strengthening water security around the world in the face of a rapidly changing climate. Here’s how:

Partnering with local water utilities in Indonesia to build climate resilience into water safety planning

In Indonesia, chemist Robby Saputra assesses and manages climate risks to the water supply in Pontianak, West Kalimantan. Delivering safe water to the city’s residents has grown increasingly complicated due to the impacts of climate change. The community’s primary water supply, the Kapuas River, faces saltwater intrusion into freshwater systems during extended dry seasons and more variable and extreme weather events, making it more difficult for community members to access safe drinking water. 

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Robby Saputra, a water utility worker in Indonesia, performs a water quality test.

USAID is working hand-in-hand with Robby and other local water utility staff to equip them with the knowledge and tools to better prepare for, and adapt to, a changing climate. With USAID support, Robby is now a certified trainer in water safety planning–a risk assessment and risk management approach to help ensure drinking-water safety. In addition to applying what he has learned to improve his own city’s water supply, Robby also trains staff in neighboring water utilities on how to navigate climate-related water supply issues and implement state-of-the-art water safety plans. USAID will continue to support water utility workers like Robby in 38 cities across Indonesia to bring safe drinking water to an additional 1.5 million people by 2027. 

Bolstering the climate resilience of Kenya's water and sanitation services

As El Niño bears down on regions like East Africa, USAID is working with county officials in Kenya to safeguard public health by making water and sanitation more climate resilient. In the past, extreme rain events associated with El Niño have easily overwhelmed water systems and sanitation facilities. In drought-prone regions like Sub-Saharan Africa, heavy rains can lead to worse flooding and jeopardize public health by spreading diarrheal diseases like cholera. 

USAID is partnering with Kenyan county health departments to strengthen their ability to anticipate and respond to potential flooding. This support includes mapping existing sanitation facilities situated in known flood-prone areas and providing timely updates about potential flooding at sanitation sites during unusually heavy rains. 

As part of the surveillance, USAID is building the capacity of partner counties to be able to provide regular information and updates on the effects of heavy rains on sanitation and menstrual health and hygiene (MHH) in the respective counties. USAID also provides information on pricing and safe disposal methods and advises people about safe menstrual waste disposal methods when they are displaced due to flooding. 

Strengthening regional cooperation to manage shared water resources in Central Asia

Once the planet's fourth-largest inland body of water, Central Asia's Aral Sea saw its surface area shrink by 80 percent between 1960 and 2010 for multiple reasons, including diversions for agricultural use and hydropower. What’s left of the sea has become highly polluted with fertilizer and pesticides, endangering drinking water and fisheries. The depletion of both water quantity and quality has left the Aral Sea basin vulnerable to more abrupt changes as glaciers melt faster, snowpack is reduced, and temperatures warm across the region because of climate change. 

In support of the Central Asia region, USAID is fostering cooperation among national governments in Aral Sea basin countries to better manage shared water resources, restore its damaged ecosystems, and mitigate the effects of climate change. As part of these efforts, USAID developed 24 water and energy modeling scenarios to equip decision makers with the data needed to promote sustainable water resource management. Further, USAID is empowering a new and more diverse generation of sustainability-minded water leaders by training women and youth.

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Woman kneeling digging hole in dirt
Caroline Savage, the former U.S. Consul General to Kazakhstan, plants black saxaul, a shrub used as part of ecosystem restoration efforts in the Aral Sea region, during a learning tour.
Mapping groundwater to improve decision making in Africa’s Sahel region

Communities in Burkina Faso and Niger, which fall within Africa’s drought-prone Sahel region, are no strangers to the ways climate change has imperiled the reliability of their water supply, undermining food security and fueling social instability perpetuating water-related fragility. In response to these challenges, USAID is assisting government officials, local water committees, community members, and other water stakeholders to map and measure the region’s groundwater reserves, which serve as vital water supplies during prolonged dry spells.

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Several women and children standing around jugs of water

USAID has supported groundwater assessments in more than 20 communes spread across Burkina Faso and Niger and further ensures that the assessment results get into the hands of local government officials and water committees. With data on water access points, decision makers are able to better understand the distribution of water resources and take actions to safeguard water quantity in times of drought. The combination of data collection and knowledge sharing strengthens the ability of communes to prepare for, withstand, and respond to future water-related shocks.    

COP28 and beyond

At COP28, governments around the world once again have an opportunity to take meaningful action in response to climate change, including the links between the climate crisis and the water crisis.

For its part, USAID will continue to integrate climate mitigation and adaptation approaches into every aspect of its water security, sanitation, and hygiene programming. Doing so will not only bolster the impact and sustainability of the Agency’s interventions and partnerships, but also give greater voice and agency to vulnerable populations and communities that too often find themselves on the front lines in the battle against climate change. 


About GlobalWaters

GlobalWaters.org is a knowledge platform supported by the USAID Bureau for Resilience, Environment, and Food Security’s Center for Water Security, Sanitation, and Hygiene to advance the U.S. Global Water Strategy. By providing the latest evidence, lessons from, and resources developed by USAID’s water security, sanitation, and hygiene activities, Global Waters leverages USAID’s investments to accelerate progress toward Water for the World.

Strategic Objective
Adaptation, Mitigation
Topics
Adaptation, Climate Change, Climate Strategy, Health, Locally-Led Development, Water and Sanitation, Water Management
Region
Global
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Global Waters

Global Waters tells the story of USAID's water-related efforts around the globe, featuring in-depth articles exploring solutions to local as well as global water challenges, opinion pieces by development professionals, and first-hand accounts from stakeholders and beneficiaries.

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