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Expanding Access to Clean Water

Worldwide, more than 660 million people lack access to clean drinking water, and more than one third of the global population—some 2.5 billion people—does not have access to an improved sanitation facility. Contaminated water and inadequate sanitation in developing countries cause roughly 675,000 premature deaths per year, mainly among children.

Expanding access to clean water and basic sanitation services is fundamental to reducing poverty, fighting disease, extending education, and improving livelihoods. Ensuring that water infrastructure is properly maintained is critical to these development goals.

The World Bank Group is deeply committed to expanding access to clean water and improved sanitation services in developing countries, and we are working with governments to find the best ways to help them achieve this. Our goal is to help governments deliver safe, reliable, and affordable water and sanitation in places where needs are greatest. In FY14, the World Bank provided $4.3 billion in grants and loans for public water projects, working with governments, and IFC invested $222 million in the water and wastewater sectors, working with both private operators and municipal utilities.

We do not have a preference for public or private solutions. The vast majority of WBG assistance supports publicly run utilities. This includes providing grants, loans and technical assistance provided by the World Bank. In some situations, carefully managed public-private partnerships or private tenders can help get clean water to more people more quickly and efficiently than state operators can manage on their own, and IFC can provide advisory services and much needed infrastructure investments to help upgrade water infrastructure systems, including pipes and wastewater treatment facilities. Examples of these engagements include recent projects in China, Brazil, and Rwanda.

Despite reports to the contrary, the World Bank Group does not in any circumstance require governments to privatize water supplies, pressure governments to take this step, or include the privatization of water as a condition of financing. We would in particular like to clarify incorrect information about three reported World Bank Group engagements – in India, Nigeria, and the Philippines:

  • IFC is not involved in Nagpur’s water sector. While IFC was previously a shareholder in AMI, a subsidiary of Veolia, which had invested in Nagpur’s water sector, IFC divested in July 2014.

  • IFC is not involved in Lagos’ water sector. In 2013, IFC was approached by the Lagos Water Corporation to discuss the possibility of providing advisory support for a public-private partnership, but no mandate was signed.

  • In the Philippines, uneven access to water in the capital caused the government to issue a National Crisis Water Act in 1995 and seek a private partner to operate water and wastewater services in the East Zone of Metro Manila. Since winning the concession in 1997, the Manila Water Company has invested $1.5 billion in the city’s water and sanitation services and increased access to water from just 26 percent of Manila’s 6 million residents to 99 percent today. Incidences of diarrhea in the area have fallen almost 75 percent. Many of the people not previously connected to water services were poor families who were forced to pay $3 a cubic meter for bottled water on the open market. Today, the average tariff in Manila is $1.30, and this tariff is helping subsidize the poorest families who now only pay 18 cents per cubic meter.

We recognize that improving access to clean water is a complex challenge and we work with governments to find the most appropriate solution to their specific circumstances. Under-investment in water infrastructure can have very serious health and social implications, and the World Bank Group is using its entire toolkit to address this critical development issue.

For more information about our engagements in the water space, please visit:

World Bank Water

IFC Infrastructure

IFC Water and Municipal Infrastructure