Water for Shared Prosperity: How Equitable Access to Water Can Drive Global Growth and Inclusion

A new World Bank report highlights the critical role of water in achieving shared prosperity. It emphasizes the importance of equitable water access for health, education, economic growth, and social cohesion. The report provides a conceptual framework, empirical evidence, and policy recommendations to address water-related inequalities and promote inclusive development, with Indonesia serving as a key case study.

Devdiscourse News DeskDevdiscourse News Desk | Updated: 22-05-2024 18:02 IST | Created: 22-05-2024 18:02 IST
Water for Shared Prosperity: How Equitable Access to Water Can Drive Global Growth and Inclusion
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As the world grapples with the escalating impacts of climate change, a new report from the World Bank titled "Water for Shared Prosperity" sheds light on a critical resource that often gets overshadowed in global development discussions: water. This comprehensive report, launched ahead of the 10th World Water Forum in Bali, Indonesia, highlights the indispensable role water plays in fostering shared prosperity and inclusive growth.

The Essence of Water in Development

Water is fundamental to life. Beyond its necessity for drinking and hygiene, water influences health, education, economic productivity, social stability, and environmental sustainability. The report argues that equitable access to water can act as a catalyst for uplifting the poorest and most marginalized communities worldwide. However, disparities in water access remain a significant barrier to achieving this vision.

Conceptual Framework: Linking Water and Prosperity

The World Bank report introduces a conceptual framework that delineates the relationship between water and shared prosperity. This framework is built on four interconnected building blocks of prosperity: health and education, jobs and income, peace and social cohesion, and the environment.

  • Health and Education: Safe and reliable water supply is crucial for maintaining public health and ensuring educational attainment. Waterborne diseases and poor sanitation are significant barriers to children's education, particularly for girls, who often bear the burden of water collection in many communities.

  • Jobs and Income: Water is essential for agricultural production, energy generation, manufacturing, and transportation. Reliable water supply supports food security, creates jobs, and drives economic growth. For instance, irrigation expansion has historically transformed agricultural productivity and livelihoods in developing countries.

  • Peace and Social Cohesion: Effective water management can foster trust and cooperation within and between communities, reducing the potential for conflicts over scarce resources. Inclusive water governance is critical for social stability.

  • Environment: Water sustains ecosystems, regulates climate, and supports biodiversity. Protecting water resources is essential for maintaining environmental health and resilience against climate change.

Empirical Evidence: The Cost of Inequalities

The report presents new empirical evidence on the extent and impacts of inequalities in water access. It reveals stark disparities in water services between high-income and low-income countries and within nations themselves. These inequalities exacerbate poverty and limit economic opportunities for the most vulnerable populations.

For example, in 2022, 2.2 billion people lacked access to safely managed drinking water services, and 3.5 billion people did not have access to safely managed sanitation. These gaps are more pronounced in rural areas and among marginalized groups. The report highlights that unsafe water is a leading contributor to child mortality, with poor water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) conditions causing millions of deaths and substantial health burdens each year.

Climate Change: A Compounding Challenge

Climate change further aggravates water-related challenges. Rising global temperatures and unpredictable weather patterns increase the frequency and severity of water shocks, such as droughts and floods. These events can devastate communities, particularly those already struggling with water scarcity.

The report underscores that developing countries and poor households are disproportionately affected by climate-induced water risks. In urban areas, the poor often reside in flood-prone zones due to affordable housing options, making them more vulnerable to disasters. Additionally, climate shocks can disrupt education, reduce labor productivity, and force families into negative coping strategies, such as withdrawing children from school.

Policy Recommendations: Pathways to Equitable Water Security

To address these challenges, the report outlines a comprehensive set of policy recommendations aimed at achieving equitable and inclusive water security. These recommendations are structured around three primary objectives:

  • Improving Resilience to Hydro-Climatic Risks:

    • Early Warning Systems: Establish robust and inclusive early warning systems to better prepare communities for extreme weather events.
    • Insurance Programs: Develop insurance programs to mitigate weather risks and provide financial support during disasters.
    • Social Protection Schemes: Scale up social protection schemes to support vulnerable communities affected by floods and droughts.
  • Improving Water Resources Development, Management, and Allocation:

    • Nature-Based Solutions: Integrate nature-based solutions into water management practices to enhance sustainability.
    • Cooperation and Coordination: Facilitate cooperation and information sharing among stakeholders to improve water allocation decisions.
    • Water Accounting: Adopt water accounting practices to inform and optimize water resource management.
  • Improving Equitable and Inclusive Service Delivery:

    • Financing and Reforms: Scale up financing for water infrastructure through institutional and tariff reforms.
    • Participatory Governance: Establish participatory water governance mechanisms to ensure transparency and accountability.
    • Innovation and Coordination: Promote innovation and improve coordination across institutions responsible for water, health, education, and urban planning.

Indonesia: A Case Study in Innovation

Indonesia serves as a key case study in the report, showcasing innovative approaches to addressing water insecurity and promoting shared prosperity. The country has implemented several successful initiatives, including:

  • Small-Scale Desalination Plants: These plants provide potable water to remote island communities, managed by local residents to ensure sustainability.
  • Multipurpose Water Storage: Indonesia is developing 61 dams to store water, reduce flooding, and increase supply for various uses, including agriculture and tourism.
  • Community-Driven Early-Warning Systems: Local communities are actively involved in managing early-warning systems for natural disasters.
  • Rural and Urban Water Supply Projects: Initiatives like PAMSIMAS and NUWSP demonstrate sustainable and financially viable water management practices, involving community participation and local government incentives.

Conclusion: A Call to Action

"Water for Shared Prosperity" is a call to action for policymakers, stakeholders, and communities worldwide. The report emphasizes that achieving equitable water security is not just about improving access to water but also about fostering inclusive growth and resilience against climate change. By addressing water-related inequalities, societies can unlock new opportunities for economic development, social cohesion, and environmental sustainability.

The World Bank stands ready to support these efforts, advocating for comprehensive policies and investments that prioritize the most vulnerable and promote shared prosperity on a livable planet.


Q1: What is the main focus of the "Water for Shared Prosperity" report?

A: The report focuses on addressing water challenges and risks faced by the poorest and most marginalized populations, aiming to enhance water access, strengthen climate resilience, and promote inclusive growth.

Q2: How does water impact health and education?

A: Access to safe and reliable water is crucial for preventing waterborne diseases and ensuring children can attend school regularly, thereby improving health and educational outcomes.

Q3: What are the key policy recommendations from the report?

A: The report recommends improving resilience to hydro-climatic risks, enhancing water resources development and management, and ensuring equitable and inclusive delivery of water services.

Q4: Why is Indonesia highlighted in the report?

A: Indonesia is highlighted as a case study due to its innovative approaches to addressing water insecurity, including small-scale desalination plants, multipurpose water storage development, and community-driven early-warning systems.

Q5: How does climate change affect water security?

A: Climate change increases the frequency and severity of water-related events like droughts and floods, which disproportionately affect developing countries and poor households.

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