fbpx ADB's Focus on Water: Overview | Asian Development Bank


Many countries are in a water crisis in Asia and the Pacific, and their expanding populations have increasing demands for water. ADB is working to increase investments for better water services and resource management in cities and rural communities.

ADB’s Vision of a Water-Secure and Resilient Asia and Pacific

Water, like many of the world’s precious resources, is threatened by misuse, overuse, and pollution. In Asia and the Pacific, many countries are in a water crisis, and their expanding populations have increasing demands for water. "Water for All" is ADB's vision for the Asia and Pacific region. ADB works to increase investments for better water services in cities and rural communities and careful management of water resources.

ADB’s “Water for All” policy and vision, adopted in 2001, guides ADB’s work on water and development. It seeks to promote water as a socially vital economic good that needs careful management to sustain inclusive and equitable economic growth and reduce poverty. It also advocates a participatory approach in meeting the challenges of water conservation and protection.

The policy has the following principal elements:

  • Promotion of a national focus on water sector reform
  • Fostering the integrated management of water resources
  • Improving and expanding the delivery of water services
  • Fostering the conservation of water and increasing system efficiencies
  • Promoting regional cooperation and increasing the mutually beneficial use of shared water resources within and between countries
  • Facilitating the exchange of water sector information and experience
  • Improving governance and capacity building

These elements guide all ADB lending, policy dialogue, and technical assistance in the water sector.

An interim review in 2003 assessed the policy’s integration into ADB operations. The ensuing report highlighted encouraging progress in the policy’s implementation. The interim review also led to revision of the provision for large water resources projects that involve dams to reflect how ADB can promote stakeholder participation in its projects.

In 2005, a comprehensive review assessed progress in the policy’s implementation and provided recommendations to improve ADB’s water investment and operations. The review involved the commissioning of an independent expert panel and was conducted with broad stakeholder participation, transparent proceedings and reporting, and wide dissemination of results.

Today, the Water for All Policy remains the bedrock of ADB’s work on water and development.

Growing populations, rapid urbanization, increasing water pollution, and competing demands for water have left water resources in many Asian countries in a critical state. The gap between demand and supply is widening, increasing competition between water users—farmers, energy producers, households, and businesses.

Around 70% of Asia’s water is used to irrigate crops, but much of it is used inefficiently, while many water-stressed countries lose large volumes of treated water through leakage in urban water supply systems. Asia is running out of water for the future.

As the race to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) draws to a close, the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation reports that 260 million people in Asia are still without access to improved drinking water and 1.5 billion people are still without sanitation access.

With the world committing to the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which call for universal access to drinking water, sanitation and hygiene, investments in Asia’s water sector are more crucial than ever.

ADB has been working to maintain the momentum and continuity of water developments in the Asia-Pacific region.

Beginning with modest investments in water projects averaging $790 million a year from 1990 to 2005, ADB, through its Water Financing Program (WFP) launched in 2006, has increased investments to over $2.0 billion annually from 2006 to 2010.

Supporting the WFP implementation, ADB’s Water Financing Partnership Facility (WFPF), also launched in 2006, has been mobilizing financial and knowledge resources from financing partners. The WFPF’s total committed contributions as of 31 December 2014 stands at $102.3 million.

ADB's new Water Operational Plan 2011–2020 identifies priorities that ADB should immediately embark on, including the mobilization of additional resources to replenish the WFPF and ensuring that it will be able to support the continuation of the WFP. Under the plan, the WFP has now been continued, with target investments to be sustained at $2.0 billion-$2.5 billion annually or a total of over $20-25 billion by 2020.

The plan is ADB’s blueprint for a water secure and sustainable future for Asia and the Pacific.

Water Pilot and Demonstration Activities

Water pilot and demonstration activities (PDAs) are small-scale, short-term projects that test and validate innovative approaches, methodologies, and technologies for replication or scaling up.

ADB provided small-scale grant of $50,000 under the Facility for Pilot and Demonstration Activities for trying out innovative local solutions to Asia’s water challenges, with the intention of replicating and scaling up such successful practices across the region. These small water projects tested and validated approaches, technologies, and business models to improve water resources management and water services delivery.

The $50,000 grant for successful applications is no longer available. We thank all the previous applicants, and the organizations that have implemented pilot and demonstration activities.


Water Funds

ADB’s Water Financing Partnership Facility (WFPF) boosts ADB’s work and investment on water and development. It supports the implementation of ADB’s Water Financing Program. Prior to the WFPF, the Cooperation Fund for the Water Sector (CFWS) financed a program of activities designed to add value and increase synergy in ADB’s water sector operations. The CFWS supported ADB’s water sector work from 2001 to 2009.

Water Financing Partnership Facility

The WFPF provides additional financial resources and technical support for components of investment projects, technical assistance operations, knowledge management, and regional cooperation. The Facility focuses on activities that:

  • Increase water investments, i.e., water sector assessments and the preparation of fundable investment proposals in rural water, urban water, and basin water;
  • Accelerate policy and institutional reforms, i.e., initiatives that enhance policy and regulations, strengthen coordination mechanisms, promote regional cooperation, and engage civil society;
  • Build institutions and expand knowledge base, i.e., short-term innovative pilot projects, capacity building interventions for key water sector organizations, knowledge products, regional cooperation, and partnerships and networking.

There are currently three trust funds under the WFPF.

  • The Multi-Donor Trust Fund has received a total of $52.44 million financial contributions from the following financing partners:
    • Australia - $24.21 million equivalent
    • Austria - $8.47 million
    • Norway - $4.56 million equivalent (2007-2017)
    • Spain - $10 million
    • Switzerland - $5.2 million equivalent
  • The Netherlands Trust Fund has a total of $44.25 million committed contributions from the Government of the Netherlands.
  • The Sanitation Financing Partnership Trust Fund has a $19 million contribution from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

As of 31 October 2019, WFPF committed contributions stand at $116.40 million.

Read the latest progress report.

Cooperation Fund for the Water Sector

The Cooperation Fund for the Water Sector (CFWS) was established in December 2001, following the adoption of ADB's Water for All policy, to help catalyze the policy's implementation. As the predecessor of the WFPF, the multi-donor CFWS financed a coherent program of activities designed to add value and increase synergy in ADB's water sector operations through better awareness, knowledge management, capacity building to support reforms, pilot and demonstration, water partnerships, regional cooperation, monitoring, and coordination.

The CFWS’s grant resources focused on better understanding of sector issues, advancement of reform measures, and development of capacities within ADB and in its developing member countries. It also helped to establish regional networks and partnerships for knowledge sharing, capacity development, and leadership.

Contributions to the CFWS reached $21.5 million from:

  • The Netherlands - $19.4 million
  • Norway - $2.1 million equivalent

The fund was closed in December 2009.

Read the final report.

Read more