By 2013, we aim to provide access to water for 100 million people.Brazil possesses 14 percent of the world’s freshwater supply—and just 3 percent of the world’s population. Yet despite nature’s goodwill, millions of the country’s poor have no access to clean water. As Brazil’s economy expands, so does the demand for water in irrigation and as a coolant in energy production, diverting even more from household use.
The water crisis is only expected to get worse. Charting our Water Future, a study undertaken by IFC and its partners, anticipates a shortage of 2.6 billion cubic meters for Brazil by the year 2030—an ironic predicament for the country of the Amazon.
Brazil is an extreme example of a broader phenomenon. As the world’s population increases, so does demand for water-intensive agricultural and energy production. Water is the common denominator for those industries most basic to human welfare. But it need not be their limiting factor.
We can’t create new sources of freshwater, but we can make treatment and supply more efficient. IFC is taking a step in this direction by extending the equivalent of $22 million in Brazilian reais to Companhia Catarinense de Agua e Saneamento. CASAN provides water and sanitation services for 2.3 million people in southern Brazil, where between 23 and 40 percent of the water produced is lost currently because of poor technology and simple measurement errors.
CASAN believes it can address this problem while making its own operations more cost-effective. With help from IFC, the company intends to replace 300,000 outdated water meters and update the customer database by conducting household inspections. The latter step will enable CASAN to identify low-income residents who are often eligible for state water subsidies.
IFC and CASAN are hoping to demonstrate—to other utility companies, as well as other lenders—that in some cases environmental, development, and financial interests can converge.
In partnership with the World Bank, IFC has developed a financing program for well-run local governments and public entities—like CASAN—that do not require sovereign guarantees. The potential impact at the local level is greater because these programs avoid national-level bureaucracy.
The CASAN project fits within IFC’s broader goals for water security. By 2013, through our clients, we hope to provide access to water for 100 million people, to save or treat 20 billion cubic meters of water per year, and to invest $1 billion per year in water security projects.