IDA AT WORK
Water Resources: Managing a Scarce, Shared Resource
W ater security is fundamental to poverty alleviation. However, it is
expected that by 2025, 3.5 billion people will live in water scarce or
water stressed areas, up from 1 billion in 2005. The world’s poorest countries
and the poorest communities within them are the most vulnerable to inad-
equate management of water resources.
The International Development Association, the World Bank fund for the
World’s poorest countries, has a unique role to play, working across sectors,
institutions and countries involved in water resources management. The
Bank has proven to be an ‘honest broker’ bridging sensitive trans-boundary
issues, coalescing policy across different parts of an economy, and weav-
ing infrastructure with environmental management, social participation and
institutional development. In this role, and in collaboration with other donors,
the IDA directs critical funding towards countries that would otherwise have
a hard time investing in the management of public goods on a long-term,
At a glance
• While world population tripled in the 20th century, the use of water increased six-fold.
• Irrigated agriculture, in the drive for food security, accounts for 70 percent of water
withdrawals in water stressed regions.
• Low-income, IDA countries account for about 80 percent of the most water-poor
• Over 260 rivers in the world run through more than one country, thus presenting unique
opportunities and challenges, especially in Africa.
• Total IDA funding for 56 projects with water resources management components
amounted to about US$2.5 billion between Fiscal Years 2000–06.
• Although aggregate outcome measures are hard to come by, IDA projects have produced
results affecting millions of people from Senegal, to Yemen and China.
The impact of water resource management projects is often profound. Evidence from recent
lending demonstrates such support has increased agricultural incomes, reduced the losses from
ﬂooding, nurtured regional cooperation, reduced sediment loadings and mitigated water-borne
diseases. Several IDA countries are making signiﬁcant progress in water resources management,
having established basic policies and capacity. Ongoing, ﬂexible support will be needed to
secure and extend these achievements, and deepen their impacts on poverty alleviation and
SECTORAL CONTEXT security, accounts for 70 percent of water
withdrawals in water stressed regions. And
While world population tripled in the last low-income IDA borrowing countries account
century, the use of water increased six-fold. for about 80 percent of countries with the
Irrigated agriculture, in the drive for food worst water poverty ratings (see map).
The Water Poverty Index illustrates the degree to which water scarcity impacts
on human populations.
Analytical work has demonstrated linkages • Contributing to the development of envi-
between water and almost all types of eco- ronmentally sustainable water infrastruc-
nomic activity—including farming, manufac- ture for storage and multiple uses (storage
turing, energy and transport—as well as the capacity in some developing countries is as
business climate. low as 38 m3/capita compared with North
American statistics of 5,961 m3/capita,
Shifting patterns of precipitation and runoff notwithstanding potential variability).
associated with climate change compound • Identifying and implementing water efﬁ-
the challenge of managing scarcity, as do the ciency measures.
destructive forces of water through drought,
ﬂood and water-borne contamination. Building the intellectual and ﬁnancial capital
to improve water security requires concerted
Tensions over water rights are increasing at and long-term support from an array of
the level of the village, the nation and across players, including international ﬁnancial
boundaries. institutions, bilateral aid agencies and non-
governmental and civil society groups.
Water resources management (WRM) is a
complex and relatively new area of focus for Water resources management cuts across
many countries. It requires actions at the sectors, skills, institutions, and sometimes
policy, legal and institutional levels while countries. A public good, water resources
addressing direct impacts at the community usually have multiple users, thus leading to
level. It is further complicated by the impacts potential contentious issues of ownership and
and inﬂuences of other sectors, such as stewardship.
industrial pollution, agricultural intensiﬁca-
tion, or hydropower generation. Some of the WRM initiatives frequently lack a revenue
key trends and priorities in water resources stream, thus placing additional burden on
management include: already over-taxed public ﬁnances. Because
of their sector and geographic reach, many
• Developing a better understanding of reforms and initiatives in WRM require a high
water-related linkages across economic level of coordination across players, from
sectors at the country level. community level to national and international
• Strengthening institutions for effective level of management processes, or across sec-
local and basin-level management. tors as diverse as agriculture and hydropower.
• Creating and implementing innovative Furthermore, the range of tools required to
mechanisms for sharing economic, social address water resources issues extends from
and environmental beneﬁts of water (ver- analytical work to participatory processes to
sus physical entitlements). investments in structures and civil works. Not
• Managing water resources across national surprisingly, this sector demands a long-term
IDA CONTRIBUTIONS of policy and legal frameworks. About 75
percent of IDA-funded WRM projects include
IDA’s work in the water resources sector is institutions and/or policy components.
guided by the 2003 Water Resources Sector
Strategy. In Tanzania, for example, IDA funding sup-
ported the development of a National Water
The strategy emphasizes the need Policy, which was adopted by the Cabinet in
to address both management and 2002 and subsequently formed the basis for
development issues—tackling a National Water Sector Development Strat-
institutional reforms along with egy. As a result, water and water resources
infrastructure upgrades. management are now ﬁrmly entrenched as
key priorities in the National Development
To better integrate water management into Vision. Similarly, IDA funding has supported
country programs and development plans, the development of water laws in Yemen and
the strategy recommends preparation of Senegal. In both cases, policy reform was
Country Water Resources Assistance Strate- accompanied by sector-speciﬁc actions.
gies in consultation with client governments.
Eighteen such plans have been produced for Institutions and capacity-building
IDA countries so far.
In the case of WRM, relevant institutions
Total IDA funding for 56 projects with WRM span the range of local, basin, national and
components amounted to about US$2.5 billion international levels.
between Fiscal Years 2000–06. The funding
speciﬁcally to the water resources manage- The water law in Yemen led to the establish-
ment components of these projects totaled ment of the Ministry of Water and Environ-
US$640 million. Most spending occurred in ment to consolidate public management and
Africa (34 percent) and South Asia (31 per- support an integrated approach to water
cent), and was concentrated in the rural resources management. From this platform
sector (80 percent). emerged the Sana’a Basin Commission
which has demonstrated an ability to make
Because of water resources management’s substantive decisions, considered from a
nature, aggregate impact measures are not multi-sectoral base. The Sana’a Basin Water
available. However, on-the-ground results Management Project was the ﬁrst initiative
related to IDA activities can be highlighted in in Yemen to address the crisis in groundwater
six critical areas. depletion.
Policy and legal framework At the local level, IDA funding has expanded
the involvement of local stakeholders in
In most countries, and particularly in IDA water management through the creation of
countries that struggle with low capacity and water user associations. In Yemen, 34 irrigation
poorly developed institutions, the Bank pays water user associations were established over
considerable attention to the foundational a three year period in the Sana’a Basin, along
components of WRM, namely development with 15 recharge water user groups.
In China, the Tarim Basin Projects resulted Agriculture
in the ﬁrst fully functional integrated river
basin management system in the country. IDA’s water resource management projects
in agriculture have simultaneously increased
In India, new participatory micro-watershed water efﬁciency and agricultural yields.
planning approaches resulted in highly inte-
grated micro-watershed plans being prepared In the Loess Plateau Watershed Rehabilitation
by communities, who have greater owner- Project in China, 1 million farmers directly
ship and commitment. One project created beneﬁted from increased yields (annual grain
4,300 area groups of farmers and 738 micro- output increased from 427,000 to over 698,000
watershed user groups to support project tons) and diversiﬁcation into higher value
implementation and longer-term operations. produce (from 80,000 to 347,000 tons in fruit
Recent evaluations indicate that more than production), with corresponding increases in
70 percent of these groups are operating farmers’ per capita incomes (from Y360 to
effectively, allowing the voices of all social Y1263 per year). A second project co-ﬁnanced
groups in the communities to be heard in by IDA and the Bank’s commercial lending
watershed development. arm, the International Bank for Reconstruction
and Development (IBRD) further contributed
Trans-boundary river management to the plateau’s sustainable development,
beneﬁting an estimated 1.5 million people.
Over 260 rivers in the world run through more
than one country, thus presenting unique In Tanzania, through a combination of policies
opportunities and challenges, especially in on water rights and fees, training of irriga-
Africa. tors’ organizations, and enhanced irrigation
efﬁciency, agricultural yields doubled and
IDA funding produced power, environmental household income tripled for more than 5,000
and agricultural beneﬁts for Senegal, Mali, families.
and Mauritania through investments in infra-
structure, equipment and trans-boundary In China’s Tarim Basin, lining canals to pre-
management institutions in the Senegal River vent leakage increased water-conveyance
Basin. efﬁciency from 60 percent to 95 percent and
saved an estimated 600-800 million cubic
In Mozambique, an International Rivers Ofﬁce meters of water every year. This water was
was established within the Water Resources reallocated to environmental, municipal and
Department, thus providing improved techni- industrial uses and enabled the reclamation
cal capacity to assess water resources and of land and the expansion of irrigation to
basin plans, and stronger technical ability to more than 41,000 hectares of new farmland.
engage in dialogue with other countries on From 1998 to 2003, an additional 41,460
riparian rights and basin management issues. hectares of land were reclaimed as irrigation
Increasingly, WRM is emerging as a vehicle for land, while the productivity of more than
regional peace and stability as well as more 123,000 hectares of low-yield irrigated land
effective water management and allocation. was substantially increased.
This contributed to an increase in production In Pakistan, watercourse improvements have
of 220,000 tons per year of wheat, 82,000 led to water savings of approximately 85,000
tons of cotton and 116,000 tons of maize. acre-feet and reduced water logging and
Higher value crops such as orchards (apples, ﬂood threats in numerous villages. In other
apricots pears and grapes), oil seeds, melons, IDA projects, improvements in water use
vegetables and alfalfa were planted on about efﬁciency freed up water for regeneration of
148,000 hectares of land. environmental assets downstream.
Environmental and social beneﬁts IDA-funded ﬂood projects (both infrastructure
and management) in Uganda, Kyrgyz Repub-
In the Loess Plateau (China), better manage- lic and Bangladesh enhanced protection of
ment of agricultural land and improved soil populations, infrastructure and property. An
conservation reduced sediment loading to the IDA-supported Lake Victoria environmental
Yellow river by more than 57 million tons per management project helped reduce water
year; a post-project review concluded that hyacinth to non-nuisance levels and revive
the project was one of the most successful ﬁsh species—thought to be extinct—in satel-
erosion control programs in the world. lite lakes.
In the Tarim Basin (China), IDA support helped Cross-sectoral management
to restore 300 kilometers of the lower reaches
of the watercourse that had run dry. Forests in Frequently, water resources management proj-
the region increased by more than 30 percent; ects involve more than one sector and combine
the grassland areas grew by 15 percent. This investment initiatives entailing both institu-
contributed to halving the socio-economic tional development and capacity-building.
costs of wind and sandstorms.
In a proposed project in Kenya, for example,
In the Senegal Basin, the high incidence of WRM lies at the heart of community-driven
water borne disease was tackled by several development with investments in agriculture,
pilot interventions (such as distribution of forestry, catchments management, and infra-
medications and bed-nets, as well as sanitation structure for ﬂood and sediment manage-
programs) that resulted in direct reductions ment.
in disease and estimated potential reductions
in the order of 40 percent for infant mortal- Beyond investment lending, IDA
ity due to diarrheal diseases, and 50 percent provides the expertise and convening
for bilharzia (caused by parasitic worms) and power needed to take the sector
intestinal parasitosis. These pilots provided forward.
the basis for a basin-wide strategy for water-
borne disease reduction that is currently Analysis and technical assistance
being implemented as part of an IDA-funded
multi-purpose water resources management Expertise ranges from analytical work to pub-
project. lic administration, legal frameworks, public
participation and environmental safeguards.
This enables IDA to bring diverse tools for Global and regional partnerships
WRM together in coherent and coordinated
programs. IDA carried out 42 analytical The Bank also convenes partners to support
studies (economic and sector work) and 40 innovation in integrated water resources
non-lending technical assistance activities in management. Given the broad reach of WRM
2000–06. needs and initiatives, this type of collabora-
tion has been signiﬁcant.
The analytical work has signiﬁcantly changed
countries’ understanding of the role of water • The Netherlands ﬁnance a US$20 million
in development and poverty alleviation and trust fund speciﬁcally for innovation in
created a new paradigm for management and WRM, with a priority focus on Africa, down-
investments. stream operational impacts, as well as the
For example, research for the Ethiopia • The World Bank is one of the three imple-
Country Water Resources Assistance Strategy menting agencies of another important
(2006) generated economy-wide models for partnership, the Global Environment Facil-
Ethiopia that show projections of average ity. This multi-donor, multi-billion fund
annual GDP growth rates drop by as much as addresses critical threats to the global
38 percent when rainfall variability is taken environment including the degradation of
into consideration. The correlation between international waters and persistent organic
rainfall and overall GDP is illustrated below. pollutants.
This empirical work highlights the importance • The Bank was invited to coordinate inter-
of considering hydrology and hydrologic national support to Nile cooperation in
variability when diagnosing economic perfor- 1997, and since 1999, the Bank has been
Ethiopia: Rainfall and GDP Growth
Source: World Bank, 2006.
promoting dialogue, and supporting joint gies, and renewed IDA commitment to infra-
actions, with a major focus on ‘changing structure translate into country programs.
hearts and minds’ over the shared usage of
Nile waters. The Bank now coordinates the There remains a strong need for
involvement of about 17 multilateral and interest-free credits and grants to help
bilateral development partners of the Nile poor countries ﬁnance WRM activities
Basin Initiative (NBI). The multi-country including policy, institutional and
NBI, which involves nine African countries, analytical work.
has helped articulate common beneﬁts of
river basin management through analytical WRM is emerging as a basic challenge to
work, country dialogue and communica- development. Important foundational steps
tions. have been taken, which are leading to proj-
ects to scale up and deepen impacts. In Tan-
The NBI has also provided the political zania and Senegal, initial work on legislation
environment and institutional capacity to and capacity building has evolved into more
move forward and pave the way for IDA extensive river basin management structures
ﬁnancing demand from these countries. It is and consideration of signiﬁcant infrastructure
anticipated that IDA investments will reach investments in hydropower and water regula-
US$200 million in FY 2007–08, US$500 mil- tion. These projects would not have been
lion in FY 2009–10, and US$2 to US$3 billion viable without the foundations of previous
in FY 2011–12, with development beneﬁts IDA support.
reaching far beyond the river to regional
economic cooperation and stability. IDA In IDA countries, the challenge of achieving
projects related to and facilitated by the water security will last for decades. It will
Nile Basin Initiative, will cover all of the require continued support in building institu-
NBI countries between 2007–12. tions, capacity, management programs and
infrastructure. Speciﬁc challenges include:
• Creating an adequate platform of water
Overall, 81 percent of IDA’s water resources infrastructure so that growth varies less
management projects completed between with water availability.
2000 and 2006 were found to have satisfactory • Ensuring equitable sharing of beneﬁts of
outcomes by the Bank’s Independent Evalua- WRM across local and indigenous, urban
tion Group (IEG) and 77 percent of projects and rural populations.
were deemed likely to be sustainable. • Building trans-boundary coalitions and
mechanisms for regional river management
Although relatively small in magnitude, the and development.
pipeline of upcoming IDA projects suggests a • Addressing climate change and variability
strong upward trend of WRM lending in the in practical ways, including mitigation,
near future as the Bank’s water strategy, adaptation, and “smart” design of pro-
Country Water Resources Assistance Strate- grams, institutions and infrastructure.
Support to date has been modest but catalytic. achievements and increasing the beneﬁts to
Water resources management in Africa and poverty alleviation and sustainable develop-
other regions is emerging as a success story, ment.
with important public beneﬁts. Continuous
IDA support will be critical to securing these March 2007.