Despite achievements in Asia and the Pacific, 1.5 billion people in rural areas and 600 million more in urban areas still lack adequate water supply and sanitation. Sound water management and access to reliable service delivery remain vital to inclusive economic growth and social well-being.
Rural and economic water security are gradually improving in Asia and the Pacific, along with reducing risks from water-related disasters. However, about two billion people still lack access to basic water and sanitation services, and 80% of wastewater generated by cities is discharged untreated into water bodies. Demand for water continues to increase not just in agriculture, but also in cities and industries. Societies are also more aware of the water needs of the environment. The region faces water scarcity because of climate change, rapid population increase, and economic growth.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had widespread impact on access to water in the region. It has affected water service providers and altered the key drivers of the water sector—water demand and water discharge. It has also highlighted persistent inequalities in water and sanitation access. Building water resilience is crucial to withstanding the impacts of COVID-19 and better preparing ADB developing member countries (DMCs) for future pandemics
ADB is working to improve water security and resilience in the region by supporting inclusive, sustainable, and well-governed services delivery and resource management. ADB supports member countries in achieving water-related UN Sustainable Development Goals. These goals include: resilience to climate change; access to basic water and sanitation services; increased food security; rural revitalization; gender equality; improved health; and a better environment. The Asian Water Development Outlook (AWDO) provides an overview of the water security status in Asia and the Pacific.
ADB prioritizes water investments and interventions to ensure better served, healthier, resilient, and more prosperous communities. Given the urgency in achieving water security and resilience amid pressing climate and water scarcity challenges, ADB has reframed and relaunched its approach to guide the organization’s work through 2030.
ADB’s water sector has five guiding principles:
Following these principles, ADB’s range of policy, governance, infrastructure, financing, and capacity development interventions are integrated across four focal areas to deliver successful and sustainable outcomes:
ADB’s work focuses on climate resilience and adaptive capacity. It includes: mainstreaming digitalization; supporting integrated and inclusive water, sanitation, and hygiene provision; embracing the circular economy; modernizing irrigation systems; and fostering innovative technologies and financing models. It incorporates learning from the COVID-19 pandemic to integrate health outcomes in water project planning and to rebuild through a low-carbon, green, and resilient recovery.
ADB targets the poor and disadvantaged, supporting inclusive economic growth. The bank also promotes solutions that improve the quality of life in cities and rural areas and foster food security. ADB’s initiatives prioritize policy reforms, service delivery improvements, and sustainable approaches to resource management.
ADB has committed to aligning its operations with the goals of the Paris Agreement, and to ensure that by 2030 at least 75% of its operations support climate action. It has also committed to deliver $100 billion in climate financing to ADB members from 2019 to 2030. Further, ADB has adopted an energy policy that rules out new investments in coal production and commits to support universal access to reliable and affordable energy services.
Implementation of ADB’s water program is supported by multiple technical assistance (TA) projects, grants, and trust funds, most notably the Water Financing Partnership Facility (WFPF), providing a total investment of $25.9 billion from 2011 to 2021.
ADB’s Water Sector Group is developing the Asia and the Pacific Water Resilience Hub. The Water Resilience Hub—an open, online platform managed by the Water Sector Group—will be a vehicle for strengthening water security by establishing partnerships and providing training. The hub will also develop and share knowledge products, innovation in the sector, tools, data, and digital technology.
It will bring together water experts, policy makers, resource managers, and executing and implementing agencies. The hub’s objective is to collectively address water issues to build resilience across the region to natural hazards, climate change, water insecurity, and social and economic crises.
The Asia and the Pacific Water Resilience Hub is part of ADB’s wider commitment and investment in climate adaptation, mitigation, and water security in the region through its Mainstreaming Water Resilience in Asia and the Pacific project. The project supports all DMCs through establishing increased climate resistance in water projects, programs, and policies by facilitating a shift toward climate-resilient and low-carbon development, and through building the capacity of clients to use information and communication technology, digital and remote sensing technologies, and innovations.
The project has three components:
As part of these efforts, ADB’s Guidance Note on Mainstreaming Water Resilience in Asia and the Pacific sets out six pillars to support the operationalization of resilience in water sector operations, planning, and policies. To spearhead the actions identified in the guidance note, ADB has launched the “RUWR: aRe yoU Water Resilient?” initiative—a platform that includes the Water Resilience Hub and aims to support water entities on the ground to become water secure and resilient.
ADB is working with select developing members to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19 by expanding and integrating water, sanitation, hygiene, and health (WASH+H) approaches into ADB's projects. One example is a dedicated $2 million grant from the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction financed by the Government of Japan. It directs resources toward water and urban sector projects focused on water supply, sanitation, wastewater, and solid waste management. It also funds projects covering health, education, and social protection. Participating countries include Bangladesh, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Uzbekistan.
The grant promotes infection prevention and control through a sustainable WASH+H program, with particular focus on poor and marginalized populations. The program supports multi-sector and multi-stakeholder awareness raising, behavior change communication campaigns, knowledge and capacity building, policy dialogue, and strategy development. This includes activities to raise awareness, strengthen capacity, and identify policy gaps and bottlenecks.
ADB’s Water Financing Partnership Facility (WFPF), supported by the governments of the Netherlands, Austria, and Spain, along with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, adds value to ADB’s water sector operations. The facility achieves this by supporting project design and implementation; strengthening policies, regulations, and institutions; and developing capacity and knowledge. The WFPF provides additional financial resources and technical support for components of investment projects, technical assistance operations, knowledge management, and regional cooperation. The WFPF has catalyzed more than $9.5 billion in innovative and sustainable water investment, benefitting 122 million people in the region.
The WFPF was established with two windows. The first is for project support, to be delivered through better project design and implementation. The second is for program quality support that strengthens policies, institutions, and regulations. The facility consists of three trust funds: (i) Multidonor Trust Fund with contributions from the governments of Australia, Austria, and Spain, (ii) Netherlands Trust Fund, and (iii) Sanitation Financing Partnership Trust Fund with a contribution from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The region needs an estimated annual investment of about $60 billion in capital investment alone for water-related infrastructure and services. Enabling innovative financing involving the private sector and maximizing local resource mobilization are essential to meet the huge regional water sector financing needs. To help DMCs meet their water security and resilience challenges, ADB will focus on the following:
ADB’s water sector will be a major contributor to ADB’s Strategy 2030 through supporting ADB members in meeting their development targets.
This series provides a country-by-country snapshot of the region’s water security status, enabling policy makers, financing institutions, and planners to make more informed decisions on how to improve their performance in the water sector.
Strategy 2030 sets seven operational priorities, each having its own operational plan. The operational plans contribute to ADB’s vision to achieve prosperity, inclusion, resilience, and sustainability, and are closely aligned with Strategy 2030 principles and approaches.
This Water Sector Directional Guide provides the strategic direction of the Asian Development Bank for the water sector.
Chief of Water Sector Group
Principal Water Security Specialist
Senior Water Resources Specialist
Senior Water Specialist (Climate Change)
Water Supply and Sanitation Specialist
Water and Sanitation Specialist (Young Professional)