April 23, 2024

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FACT SHEET: United States Announces $4​9​ Billion in Commitments to Global Water Security and Sanitation

Biden-Harris Administration is Driving a Once-in-A-Generation Commitment to Equitable, Climate-Resilient Water and Sanitation and Home and Abroad

On World Water Day 2023, the Biden-Harris Administration announced more than $49 billion in domestic and global action to ensure that equitable access and climate-resilient water and sanitation infrastructure remain a priority at home and around the world.

These announcements build upon President Biden’s once-in-a-generation investments in water conservation and resilience planning, water storage and conveyance, watershed health and management, and drought resilience while working to secure environmental justice and confront decades of underinvestment in disadvantaged communities.

These announcements also build on the White House Action Plan on Global Water Security, launched by Vice President Harris in June 2022, and the 2022 Global Water Strategy, both of which guide the whole of the U.S. government in addressing one of the greatest global challenges of our time.

These announcements were made at the historic UN Water Conference taking place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, where governments gathered to assess progress on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 on water and sanitation, and to identify actions needed to achieve the SDGs by 2030. Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015, the SDGs represent a shared vision of partnerships among governments and civil society, the private sector, academics, and community leaders throughout society.

SDG 6 is essential to meeting many of the other SDGs, yet progress has been uneven, at times deepening racial, ethnic, and gender inequalities at great cost to the global economy.

Today, more than two million Americans lack access to clean drinking water at home, and more than one million Americans don’t have the plumbing required to flush a toilet. Native American households are 19 times more likely to lack indoor plumbing, compared to non-Native households. Nearly a quarter of U.S. households on private wells have contaminants in their water, like arsenic or e. coli, that pose a risk to household and community health.

Worldwide, one in four people lack access to safe water in their homes. Nearly half of the world’s population do not have a hygienic toilet at home, and one third of people globally can’t wash their hands with soap and water at home. This burden is disproportionately felt by women and children, whose educational and economic opportunities suffer as a result, creating a cycle of poverty.

Stressors such as climate change, coupled with poor governance and management of water resources overall, hasten both the frequency and intensity of water crises within the United States and globally. The significance of water security in U.S. foreign policy and national security goals is coming into sharper focus. The United States recognizes that global water security is essential to our national security, and President Biden has laid out an innovative, whole-of-government approach to address the full scope of global water issues and mobilize U.S. departments and agencies around concrete actions to achieve our vision of a water-secure world. Investments in water and sanitation safeguard our public health and economic growth, enable us to respond to climate change and natural disasters, prevent conflicts, reduce the risk of famine and hunger, and create jobs at home and abroad.

Today’s announcements demonstrate American leadership and ingenuity, and will advance equitable, climate-resilient water and sanitation service access, increase sector financing, and focus on meeting the needs of marginalized Americans and people in vulnerable situations worldwide.

USG Leadership in Creating an Equitable Water-Secure World

Global water security – including within American borders – is a key component of the United States’ efforts to work together with international partners to confront today’s shared challenges and achieve the SDGs by 2030. From working with Mexico to respond to drought in the Colorado River Basin, to collaborating with Tribal and Alaska Native governments and communities to close historic gaps in services, the United States is committed to providing leadership that impacts people and communities where they live. In addition to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act and the White House Action Plan on Global Water Security, the Biden-Harris Administration has:

  • Launched the 2022 U.S. Global Water Strategy – under joint leadership of the Department of State and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) with bipartisan Congressional support – as the primary implementation vehicle of the White House Action Plan on Global Water Security, leveraging the unique expertise of 14 Federal departments and agencies to provide global leadership on building the systems, financing, infrastructure, and data needed to increase water security and access to sanitation where it’s needed most;
  • Designated a United States Special Envoy for Biodiversity and Water Resources at the Department of State, signaling the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to resolving the world’s intertwined biodiversity and water crises;
  • Launched the National Drought Resilience Partnership, a collaboration between 15 Federal departments and agencies to develop a fully operational national integrated drought early warning information system, creating a more drought-resilient nation; and
  • Joined the International Drought Resilience Alliance, an initiative to accelerate action and help countries to be better prepared for future droughts by giving political impetus to strengthen resilience to drought a reality by 2030, as a founding member.

Leveraging USG Leadership to Drive Increased Investment in Global Water Security

Through SDG 6, the United States and all UN Member States seek to achieve safe water and sanitation for all by 2030. But there is an estimated annual financing gap of one trillion dollars to achieve global water security. This is why the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to collaborating with the private sector and other partners, such as banks and credit agencies, to catalyze new water and sanitation investments for large and small infrastructure projects, maintenance, and quality control. Since the June 2022 launch of the White House Action Plan on Global Water Security, the United States, through USAID, has mobilized $142 million in new finance for water security and sanitation. To further close funding gaps, reach more people with basic services, and safeguard more of the world’s precious freshwater resources, the United States will: ​​

  • Pursue a target, under the U.S. Global Water Strategy, to mobilize an additional $1 billion in non-U.S. government funds for global water security and sanitation through USAID partnerships and investments;
  • Provide a $100 million loan from the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) to WaterEquity’s Global Access Fund IV, an impact investment fund that leverages public and private resources to support climate-resilient water and sanitation infrastructure where it is needed most; and
  • Work with stakeholders, through the U.S. International Trade Administration, to highlight the role of the private sector, including U.S. firms’ innovations in the water and wastewater sectors, and promote U.S. water technology exports to meet broader USG and partner country objectives and achieve progress toward SDG 6 – by supporting U.S. partnerships with foreign firms and facilitating adoption of U.S. water technologies through business matchmaking at trade shows and providing market intelligence for U.S. water & wastewater companies seeking export opportunities abroad.

In addition, the Department of Defense (DoD) in spring 2022 established a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Arctic and Global Resilience (AGR) within the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy. This is DoD’s first policy office that looks at the geostrategic and defense aspects of climate adaptation, climate mitigation, and energy security. AGR’s work on global resilience includes global water security and other environmental security issues within the scope of DoD’s mandate.

Advancing Water Equity at Home and Around the World

As climate impacts intensify, all countries will face increasingly widespread water stress and need to implement sustainable water management practices to preserve economic, energy, and human security. Across the United States, the Biden-Harris Administration is taking unprecedented steps to ensure Americans have secure water access. From building climate-resilient water and sanitation infrastructure, to efforts to replace lead pipes and deliver safe drinking water to families and children, billions of dollars of funding through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law represents the largest investment in the resilience of physical and natural systems in American history.

We are also working to secure environmental justice and confront decades of underinvestment in disadvantaged communities through the Justice40 Initiative, which seeks to direct 40 percent of the overall benefits of Federal climate, clean water, and other investments to disadvantaged communities that have been historically marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution.

Internationally, since the launch of the first-ever White House Action Plan on Global Water Security in June 2022, targeted investments have helped the United States provide 5.4 million people with water, including 2.7 million women and girls, and 6.3 million people with sanitation, including 3.15 million women and girls. Eighty percent of those reached with sanitation services had never before had access to sanitation. Lack of access to these basic, life-saving services poses a risk to regional and global economic security and public health. In addition to advancing SDG 3 on health, action to reduce inequalities in water and sanitation access between and within countries also advances other SDGs, such as SDG 5 on gender equality. To increase water equity and advance well-being for marginalized communities in the United States and around the world, the United States has made the following announcements.

  • ​​A​t the World Water Forum in 2022, the United States announced a three-year $1.2 billion investment in foreign assistance for water security and sanitation, USAID’s first-ever multi-year commitment to the sector. In 2023, USAID will work with Congress to announce a commitment to allocate more than $700 million of these funds in support of its 22 High-Priority Country Plans under the U.S. Global Water Strategy. These funds will support USAID field Missions in Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and sub-Saharan Africa to support local solutions to water resources management, drinking water, sanitation, hygiene, and climate change challenges over the next three years. At least 50 percent of those reached with this investment will be women and girls and/or people who have never before had access to these basic services due to a range of local vulnerabilities.
  • At the World Water Forum in 2022, the United States announced a three-year $1.2 billion investment in foreign assistance for water security and sanitation, USAID’s first-ever multi-year commitment to the sector. In 2023, USAID will work with Congress to announce a commitment to allocate more than $700 million of these funds in support of its 22 High-Priority Country Plans under the U.S. Global Water Strategy. These funds will support USAID field Missions in Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and sub-Saharan Africa to support local solutions to water resources management, drinking water, sanitation, hygiene, and climate change challenges over the next three years. At least 50 percent of those reached with this investment will be women and girls and/or people who have never before had access to these basic services due to a range of local vulnerabilities.
  • USAID is launching a new global investment to improve water security, including drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene, and promote stability across humanitarian, peacebuilding, and development contexts. This includes a focus on those who are most vulnerable in times of fragility and conflict, such as through increased risk of gender-based violence.
  • USAID will continue to provide global leadership on holistic approaches to menstrual health and hygiene (MHH). This builds on previous USAID investments of $5.4 million in innovative partnerships in Kenya, Malawi, Nepal, and Zambia to advance knowledge on the intersections between MHH and sexual and reproductive health, education, and women’s economic security. These approaches will integrate access to safe latrines with social and behavior change, health information, and menstrual hygiene products to promote menstrual equity and research that advance both SDG 5 and SDG 6.
  • Insufficient water infrastructure threatens America’s security, and it risks people’s health, jobs, peace of mind, and future prosperity. Disadvantaged communities face the worst impacts of water infrastructure that is old and outdated or was never provided in the first place. The US Environmental Protection Agency provides$43 billion through the state revolving funds for wastewater and drinking water infrastructure, including lead pipe replacement and emerging contaminants mitigation. Further, 49% of Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds provided through EPA’s state revolving fund programs will be provided as grants and forgivable loans to disadvantaged communities.
  • The Department of the Interior is providing over $2 billion for 250 water infrastructure projects through funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act to advance drought resilience and expand access to clean, reliable water for families, farmers, and wildlife. These projects are boosting innovative water purification and water storage projects, supporting Tribal dams and water sanitation systems, and restoring watersheds and aquatic habitats.
  • The Department of the Interior has committed $2.5 billion through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to fulfill Indian Water Rights Settlements, which will break down barriers and help create conditions that improve water resources management by providing certainty as to the rights of all water users who are parties to the disputes.
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are collaborating with the states of Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, and West Virginia, as well as the tribal nations of Santo Domingo Pueblo and San Carlos Apache, on the Closing America’s Wastewater Access Gap Community Initiative. EPA and USDA will jointly leverage technical assistance resources to help historically underserved communities identify, and pursue, federal funding opportunities to address their wastewater needs. The initiative will be piloted in 11 places across the southern regions of the country that have demonstrated significant need. The Closing America’s Wastewater Access Gap Community Initiative will also provide a roadmap that can be scaled to additional communities across the country.
  • In collaboration with the European Union, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, the United States is launching a new effort under the Water and Energy for Food Grand Challenge to advance Sustainable Climate-Resilient Water Modelling and Monitoring in Agriculture to protect vulnerable populations.
  • In July 2022, the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the Government of Timor Leste signed a grant agreement dedicating $308 million to the Water and Sanitation (WSD) Project that includes construction of a plant to produce chemical disinfectant for city water supply, building the country’s first central wastewater system, improving the drainage network for the capital city of Dili and four nearby municipalities, policy and institutional reforms, and social and behavior change to improve sanitation and water management at the household level.
  • The U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF) will support African agriculture cooperatives and entrepreneurs, to improve food security and systems, increase incomes for smallholder farmers, and build resilience via climate smart practices in underserved communities across Africa.

Strengthening Data for Decision-Making and Early Warning Systems to Protect Countries and U.S. Communities

In the face of climate change, changing migration patterns, urbanization, and other global challenges that often shift rapidly, evidence-based planning and decision-making is essential. The Biden-Harris Administration has committed to open and transparent research and data as a key enabler of domestic and foreign policy priorities, including for water security. To improve the type, quality, and use of water-related data available to decision-makers around the world, the United States is taking the following actions.

  • In 2022, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launched the Surface Water Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission, a new satellite that will establish the first-ever global survey of Earth’s surface water. SWOT capture global water measurements in 3-dimensions every 21 days. This will improve our understanding of how water bodies change over time, ocean circulation models, weather and climate predictions, and will aid in freshwater management around the world. By focusing on our planet’s interconnected systems, from a global scale down to minute processes, NASA delivers the technology, science, global observations, and applications that help us map the myriad connections between our planet’s vital processes and the climate effects of ongoing natural and human-caused changes. NASA will also pilot the Earth Information System (EIS) to support near-term and long-range analysis and decision making in support of preparation, mitigation, and resilience in the face of climate change. EIS pilot projects specifically addressed freshwater resources and sea-level rise, with the aim of producing actionable and accessible water information.
  • In 2023, USDA will launch an International Climate Hub to help provide expertise, information, and tools for climate-smart agriculture and forestry to international stakeholders, particularly in countries that are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. USDA’s knowledge support for sustainable water resources management, conservation, and restoration are within the new hub’s scope. The International Climate Hub will be a website that will function as a platform to demonstrate U.S. leadership on addressing climate change from the agricultural and forestry sectors, internationally showcasing data, information, and tools from USDA and its partners that may be of interest to other countries.
  • USDA will also apply to become a knowledge partner in the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s Global Framework on Water Scarcity in Agriculture to facilitate USDA’s global networking and international technical cooperation on agricultural water scarcity and food security in the context of climate change.
  • Under the auspices of NASA and USAID, the SERVIR initiative works with over 50 developing countries in Asia, Africa, and the Americas to use satellite data to address critical challenges in food security, water resources, weather and climate, land use, and water-related disasters. In 2023, SERVIR will provide at least four water-related deliverables, including flood extent mapping in the Bangladesh and Mekong regions, small water-body volume estimation tool for pastoralists in West Africa, and an evaluation of the use of commercial cloud provider as a sustainable delivery mechanism for flood forecasts.
  • In another innovative partnership, NASA will work with the U.S. Department of State to provide advanced remote-sensing, modeling, and capacity building activities to multiple end-users through the Strategic Hydrologic and Agricultural Remote-sensing for Environments program. This initiative helps to bring NASA data and technical resources to end-users in some of the most complex hydrologic domains in the world more rapidly than would otherwise be possible using existing mechanisms.
  • An innovative partnership between a variety of U.S. agencies and organizations – including the U.S Air Force; the National Academy of Sciences; the Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Engineer Research and Development Center; Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency; the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, the U.S. Department of State, and the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln – along with the UK Meteorological Office and other stakeholders are collaborating on the development of a fully-integrated hydro-modeling and streamflow prediction system, entitled Global Hydro-Intelligence (GHI). For the first time, these operational hydrological products and services will establish a routinely available authoritative and trusted source of global water intelligence information supporting war-fighters, planners, and decision makers at all echelons and services of the U.S. military, U.S. government, and U.S. intelligence community.
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Army Geospatial Center is focusing on the adoption of environmental considerations into existing decision-making paradigms. This capability allows for flexible and dynamic integration of environmental considerations into decision making workflows at varying spatial and temporal scales.
  • The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is supporting $91 million in the Urban Integrated Field Laboratories (UIFL) initiative. The UIFIL will inform equitable climate, water, and energy solutions to help strengthen community-scale resilience across urban landscapes. UIFL awardees pursue integrated urban climate research, co-produced with local stakeholders.
  • DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM) initiative is supporting the characterization, treatment, and management of produced waters and legacy wastewaters with the goal of reusing these waters for other purposes. In addition to providing an alternative water source these technologies will help recover critical minerals.
  • The National Alliance for Water Innovation (NAWI, a DOE-funded Energy-Water Desalination Hub, focuses on fit-for-purpose water-reuse technologies related to desalination. NAWI recently announced $5 million in awards for pilot scale technologies and $10 million in technological innovations that address challenges associated with pretreatment and concentrate management in desalination of brackish (not marine salty water) and wastewater as source water.
  • DOE in conjunction with the Department of Interior (DOI) is launching the Nexus of Energy and Water for Sustainably Research, Development & Demonstration (NEWS RD&D). NEWS will maximize the coordination of energy-water nexus programs and projects across all US Federal agencies and work with State and local governments to create nationwide equitable, climate resilient water and sanitation-based technologies, especially in relation to the water-energy nexus.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will partner with local scientists and governments to expand early-warning systems for floods, droughts, and heat in Africa, the Pacific Small Island Developing States, and the Caribbean.
    • In Botswana, Kenya, and Tanzania, NOAA will invest in the Group on Earth Observations Global Water Sustainability Initiative (GEOGloWS), leverage water elevation from satellite data from more than 12,000 virtual stations worldwide to improve the global streamflow forecast, and work directly with partner countries on implementation, including capacity development workshops with user organizations.
    • NOAA will work with the Bahamas to support storm surge mapping for its island communities. With funding provided by USAID and the U.S. Department of State, NOAA will develop storm surge risk maps to improve understanding of storm surge flooding vulnerability from landfalling tropical cyclones, providing critical information to help save lives and minimize impacts to property.
  • NOAA will work to enhance climate information services and early warning systems in the Caribbean through support for the Caribbean Regional Climate Outlook Forum (CARICOF), including the expansion of early warning systems for drought, in partnership with the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH). NOAA, USDA, USAID, and other U.S. agencies will continue cooperation on the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), a leading provider of early warning and analysis on acute food insecurity around the world. NOAA cooperates with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), USAID, and others to support FEWS NET products, which aims to inform humanitarian assistance to drought-affected regions and provide support to reduce the human impacts of drought. In supporting the FEWS NET product, NOAA contributes climate information on drought forecasts and severity that governments and relief agencies use in assessing risks to food security and planning for, and responding to, food-engendered humanitarian crises in countries in Africa, Central Asia, Central America, and the Caribbean.
  • DOE Water Power Technologies Office will release several funding opportunities, totaling more than $55 million, to support research, development, demonstration, and commercial activities that advance the development of reliable, cost-competitive marine energy technologies and reduce barriers to technology deployment.
  • USAID is launching a new global investment to improve collection and use of water and sanitation data that enables decision-making worldwide.
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