ADB works in water, investing over $2 billion annually to provide people in Asia and the Pacific with sustainable access to clean water and improved sanitation.

By the Numbers

$59 billion
Investments needed for water supply
in Asia and the Pacific
$71 billion
Investments in improved sanitation
needed in the region
$25 per person
Amount needed to provide access to
safe drinking water and improved sanitation
Up to $25 billion
ADB's target water investments
in the region by 2020

Water security is a critical issue in Asia and the Pacific. According to the Asian Water Development Outlook 2013, a joint study by ADB and Asia-Pacific Water Forum (APWF), 37 out of the 49 countries assessed in Asia and the Pacific either have low levels of water security or have barely begun to improve their water security. The study provides finance and planning leaders with recommendations on policy actions to improve water governance and guidance on investments to increase water security.

Asia and the Pacific needs $59 billion in investments for water supply and $71 billion for improved sanitation. There is, however, no one-size-fits-all solution for the region.

"Improving water security is a complex task and the priority areas will depend on the local context," says Ian Makin, principal water resources specialist at ADB in a live chat hosted on the Asian Development Blog. "Water needs to be better integrated to national economic planning."

Water for All

ADB's Water for All policy recognizes water as a socially vital economic good that needs increasingly careful management to sustain equitable economic growth and reduce poverty and the active involvement of people at all levels. The policy guides ADB's Water Financing Program, which works to increase investments and support reforms in cities, rural communities, and river basins.

Launched in 2006, the program devoted 25% of ADB's investment portfolio to water projects and increased its water investments to over $2 billion annually. By end-2010, ADB's water investments totaled $11.44 billion under the program.

In this decade, ADB is sustaining its water investments in the region at $2.0 billion to $2.5 billion annually or a total of up to $25 billion by end-2020. Financing is driven by the priorities set in the Water Operational Plan 2011-2020, ADB's blueprint for a water secure and sustainable future for Asia and the Pacific.

ADB is also testing innovative approaches to improving water security through programs for small-scale, short-term water projects and programs that report on the positive impact of the small-grant facility on the region.

An ongoing pilot project is developing a system for supplying remote communities in Viet Nam's Thua Thien Hue province with purified water. Another is setting up a market-oriented payment mechanism for watershed conservation in the Chishui River Basin in the People's Republic of China.

Private sector's role

Both ADB projects demonstrate how the private sector can play an important role in the water sector. "Private sector firms can practice good stewardship to protect water resources as a means to minimize their business risks and business costs," says Amy Leung, director of Urban Development and Water Division at ADB's Southeast Asia Department, in the live chat. "Large businesses can be encouraged to show leadership to their suppliers."

Greater private sector involvement in the water sector can mean not only providing financing for projects but also managerial and technological expertise.