At The Rockefeller Foundation, we celebrate World Water Day by recognizing milestones and highlighting projects that we support to improve the lives of vulnerable people. Recent reports from UNICEF and the WHO indicate that the world has met the Millennium Development Goal target of access to drinking water for more than 88 percent of the world's population. Between 1990 and 2010, over two billion people gained access to improved drinking water sources, such as piped supplies and protected wells. Although these statistics are a heartening milestone, more than two and a half billion people do not have access to improved sanitation, and greater than 800 million do not have a safe source of water. Lack of access to clean water is a personal tragedy that plays out every minute of every day for millions of people.
While we celebrate the successes accomplished today by our partners and many others working in the water sector, it’s important to remember there is still tremendous progress to make. We hope that World Water Day 2012 provides an opportunity to not only celebrate achievements, but to evaluate what has contributed to those successes and renew our efforts to ensure that all people have sustained access to safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene. We must redouble our efforts and work with greater resources, ingenuity and dedication to ensure that all people have access to the basic necessities of life.
Our Water History
Children play around a new water tank in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
We take an integrated perspective on water issues. We support work in the sector that contributes to providing equitable opportunities for growth, greater resilience to the myriad of shocks and stressors, and contributes to the overall mission of the foundation to improve the lives of poor and vulnerable people. We integrate work on water across the many geographies, initiatives and issues where we work, striving to innovate at these intersections.
Multiple Use Water Services (MUS)
Recently, we completed an exploration of Multiple Use Water Services (MUS). MUS is an innovation in water services delivery that provides water access for productive, domestic and environmental uses. In many parts of the world, water is delivered in silos, either for domestic uses such as clean drinking water, water for cooking and washing, or for productive uses such as water for irrigation, livestock, and small scale enterprises. People use water for all these purposes, no matter how the system is designed or operated. Sustainability of the water source is often overlooked. MUS explicitly incorporates the environmental uses of water as critical to ensuring lasting supply over time. By working in new ways to deliver water for all these uses, the poverty reduction impacts are magnified and pilot projects have shown improvements in household nutrition, health, and women’s incomes. You can learn more about this approach through this video.
The Water Sector in the US
As part of our work promoting green and equitable economic growth in the US, we’ve been working to understand the potential for green jobs for low skilled workers in the water sector with the Pacific Institute and Green for All. Green for All’s report entitled, Water Works explains how upgrading US water infrastructure will create 1.9 million jobs and add $265 billion to the economy. Recently, we’ve begun working with The Nature Conservancy, EKO Asset Management Partners and the Natural Resources Defense Council to catalyze investment of private capital towards green stormwater infrastructure solutions in Philadelphia. We aim to elevate models and demonstrations of projects that have worked in different cities in the US and spread them to other cities in need of stormwater infrastructure improvement.
Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Initiative
We're supporting exploratory work on conjunctive water use management in the water stressed city of Indore, India as part of our Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Initiative. The basic philosophy behind the conjunctive use of water is that high quality water should be used for drinking and cooking purposes, while untreated water is used for low end uses such as washing and flushing. Working with communities to use different qualities of water for different purposes will help the city be more efficient at using their limited water resources and cope with increasing water stress.
The Foundation supported the first large scale mapping of ground water resources in 15 African countries from 2008 to 2011, which was completed by the International Water Management Institute. Groundwater sustains the lives of an estimated 400 million rural people in Africa, yet is severely under-utilized as a resource that can not only revolutionize agriculture in Africa, but also build resilience to climate change, achieving many of the Millennium Development Goals. This project is part of our Green Revolution in Africa initiative.
Ceres Aqua Gauge
Related to our work in impact investing, we supported the development of the Ceres Aqua Gauge, a tool that both enhances corporate water risk management and supports greater corporate water stewardship. Multinational companies are increasingly investing in countries where water needs are unmet, and/or have companies in their supply chains that are operating in these countries. Corporate water stewardship practices are weak in many regions, a situation that often pits community needs against corporate uses of water. By creating pressure on companies to reduce their requirements for and impacts on water resources, and by providing incentives for them to use operations and suppliers to protect and restore watersheds where they operate, the Ceres Aqua Gauge benefits those who lack adequate water access or whose current access is under threat.
Other Water Projects
The Foundation supports more inclusive and equitable urban strategic planning surrounding housing, rehabilitation and resettlement, water, sanitation, and land tenure, primarily in urban locations in India. We've partnered with the following organizations: