“Water is life's master and matrix, mother and medium,” said Nobel Prize winner for Physiology Albert Szent-Györgyi. The annual World Water Week is currently taken place in Stockholm bringing together experts, practitioners and decision-makers from over 300 organizations. This year's edition focuses on ‘Water for Sustainable Growth’ and aims to tackle the most pressing water-related challenges of today and think through solutions for the future.

The present paradox of water is that for some communities there is too much of it, for others not enough. In regions prone to floods or extreme events, water can damage infrastructure, destroy harvests and carry plagues and deadly microbes. Elsewhere, water scarcity leads to droughts, hunger and conflict. Unstable water temperatures, rising sea levels as well as the frequency and intensity of natural events only aggravate the current climate-water boom and bust cycle. For many the current status quo is not quite paradise.

Credit: World Bank

Why are water issues moving towards the top of the global climate agenda?  Climate change problems and their impact are often in the foreground of current sustainable growth debates, and the combined topic of climate and water adds an additional layer to the ongoing conversation. A variety of countries have started to explore investment options to tackle water-related climate challenges. The creation of enhanced climate adaptation plans and innovations in disaster risk reduction are becoming the norm, rather than being the exception. Also, water investments are fast becoming a popular theme for green bonds which could help drive down the capital costs of water projects.

Major development institutions help strengthen the evidence base for these investments. This year, the World Water Week hosts a dedicated session on financing and innovation, the World Bank Group published High and Dry: Climate Change, Water, and the Economy and the Climate Action Plan, and the UN continues its International Hydrological Programme (IHP) on water research and capacity building.

The combined topic of climate and water is also prominent in the Climate Investment Funds (CIF) portfolio.  The CIF, in collaboration with partner multilateral development banks (MDBs), supports a variety of projects focusing on the provision of a more water-secure future for agriculture, cities, industry and nature. The CIF's Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR) has allocated, approved and is implementing over $ 170  million to water resource management projects and approximately $ 32 million to hydropower initiatives as part of the Scaling up Renewable Energy Program (SREP). The impact of these projects is remarkable.

Credit: World Bank

In the Pyanj River Basin in Tajikistan, the CIF is helping vulnerable communities to become more climate-resilient by ensuring climate robust infrastructure as well as upgrading early warning communications and disaster risk management systems. To date the project, supported with $ 21.6 million from the CIF’s Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR) and implemented by the Asian Development Bank, has led to a 20% reduction in economic losses from climate-induced extreme events in the Pyanj River Basin region. The project also emphasizes supporting women’s increased participation in water management committees for agricultural and non-agricultural uses.   

Niger Basin, Niger. Credit: World Bank

In Niger, the PPCR has supported the Water Resources Mobilization and Development Project (PROMOVARE), implemented by the African Development Bank. This project helps improve the resilience of rural communities dependent on rain-fed farming through sustainable water resources, soil management and the adoption of resilient techniques and technologies. The project has so far improved the lives of more than 700,000 people, half of them women. To date, up to 1,000 farmers have been trained in climate resilient agricultural technologies/practices and up to 250 have accessed credit.

Water is one of the primary channels through which climate change influences the world’s ecosystem, economies and societies. Water management practices play – and will continue to play – a pivotal role in a world impacted by climate change. Innovation and ingenuity are needed if communities are to not only survive but thrive. By strengthening existing land and water management best practices, ensuring resilience of water infrastructure, and enhancing institutional efforts to increase adaptive capacity, the Climate Investment Funds is helping to contribute to a water wise world.

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