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The knowledge created by World Bank projects related to water, curated and distributed by the Water Global Practice and the Global Water Security & Sanitation Partnership (GWSP) finds its way into more than 50 major publications a year, some with partners such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the United Nations, the World Resources Institute (WRI), and WaterAid
Recent flagship reports have examined the relationship between water and economic growth by taking a hard look at the water crisis and the impacts of pollution (Quality Unknown: The Invisible Water Crisis), scarcity (Uncharted Waters: The New Economics of Water Scarcity and Variability) or climate change (High and Dry: Climate Change, Water, and the Economy).
Emerging solutions include nature-based infrastructure (Integrating Green and Gray: Creating Next Generation Infrastructure), managing resources at the level of river basins, including transboundary, or approaches put forth by global diagnostics, which combine rigorous analytical frameworks with lessons learned from rich case studies: Water Scarce Cities: Thriving in a Finite World is, for example, a key initiative which spearheaded an expanding collection of Water Security Diagnostics.
The same approach delivered evidence-based recommendations for Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene interventions in seventeen countries, captured in a series of WaSH-Poverty diagnostics. These diagnostics are completed by a growing body of knowledge on Citywide Inclusive Sanitation and the circular economy of wastewater management, new reports on nutrition-sensitive WSS interventions and strategies for inclusive service delivery such as The Rising Tide: A New Look at Water and Gender and Women in Water Utilities: Breaking Barriers. Taken together, these analytical pieces directly contribute to the World Bank’s Human Capital Project.
Recognizing the challenges of delivering sustainable and resilient services in an inclusive manner, the Water GP finally developed interrelated think pieces on improving water institutions and mobilizing finance for development in the water sector (notably: Reform and Finance for the Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Sector and Aligning Institutions and Incentives for Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation Services or Doing More with Less: Smarter Subsidies for Water Supply and Sanitation), which, in turn, constitute the backbone of global diagnostics.

See also: Knowledge Highlights from the Water Global Practice

Groundwater is vital to economic activity and growth, food security, socioeconomic development, and adapting to the impacts of climate change. But the sustainability of this critical resource is at risk in many regions, partly because it is not valued appropriately and is taken for granted. In the context of global pressures on food systems and water supply, policymakers need to act now to ensure groundwater is managed responsibly across sectors depending on this resource. The report, titled The Hidden Wealth of Nations: The Economics of Groundwater in Times of Climate Change, demonstrates how groundwater can safeguard food security while boosting economic growth and job creation. However in most cases, this resource has been undervalued and overexploited, with insufficient regard for its long-term sustainability. This is partly due to a lack of systematic research into its economic importance.
Report link: What the Future Has in Store: A New Paradigm for Water Storage

Storing water is a critical part of water security, and the societal response to hydrological variability. Water storage increases the amount of water available for human, environmental, and economic use, reduces the impact of floods, and provides a variety of ancillary services such as hydropower and navigation by regulating water flows. Today, the societies, economies, and the environment depend on a web of natural and built water storage. However, as global demand for freshwater use increases and climate change is bringing profound changes to the water cycle, thus increasing our need for storage, the amount of net storage available is decreasing. This report unpacks the importance of storage, recent trends in the availability of storage, and sets forth a new integrated planning framework to guide water managers through a problem-driven and systems-oriented process to understand the options available to them to meet their water security goals and how the different forms of water storage can be part of the solution. 

Report link: Scaling Up Finance for Water: A WBG Strategic Framework and Roadmap for Action

Water is a critical natural resource, a global public good, and an essential service. Water security is central for countries to achieve long-term development objectives in the current context of climate change, including protecting infrastructure assets, safeguarding agricultural production, producing sustainable energy, and protecting vulnerable populations. However, water resources are under severe stress and water services delivery is deficient due to underinvestment in the sector. The World Bank Group recognizes the water-climate-food-energy nexus and the importance of a water secure world for all. The World Bank Group’s scaling up finance for water strategic framework outlines actions and priorities for national governments, the World Bank Group, and other development partners to improve the planning and mobilization of funding and financing for water sector investments, and to promote efficiency in spending.

Report links: Ebb and Flow: Volume 1: Water, Migration, and Development, Volume 2: Water in Shadow of Conflict in the Middle East and North Africa

This report examines the link between water and migration, and the implications for economic development. The report is based on analysis of the largest data set on internal migration ever assembled, covering nearly half a billion people from 189 population censuses in 64 countries from 1960 to 2015. It assesses how rainfall shocks are related to migration relative to other key variables such as age, gender, education, and household size.  The report is in two parts. Volume 1 covers water, migration, and development. Volume 2 focuses on water, forced displacement and conflict in the Middle East and North Africa.

Report link: Rising from the Depths: Water Security and Fragility in South Sudan

In 2022, South Sudan was ranked as the world’s most vulnerable country to climate change and the one most lacking in coping capacity. South Sudan is also one of the world’s most politically fragile countries. Rising from the Depths explores opportunities and trade-offs for aligning South Sudan’s water-related investments and policies with its commitment to peace and its climate change adaptation needs. This report elevates water security as an issue critical for national development and stability—not just as a humanitarian need. With a focus on water security for people, production, and protection, the report shows that water insecurity is an existential threat to South Sudan.

Report links: Funding a Water-Secure Future : An Assessment of Global Public Spending

This study is a first-ever attempt to gain a 360° panoramic view of spending in the entire global water sector to better understand the financing and funding gaps in relation to sector goals, and consequently guide thinking on alternative ways to close them. It estimates total water expenditure at various levels of disaggregation, and at the global and regional scales, using several data sources, including budget data and national accounts data, and the updated versions of all available databases on infrastructure spending from various sources, including private and foreign funding. The study thereby presents an integrated assessment of global and regional public spending in the water sector and its main subsectors. It presents findings that seek to answer questions about how public funds are spent in the sector, how well they are spent, and the financing and funding gaps in the sector to help the government meet sector goals. The study is intended as a guide that governments and a range of other stakeholders can use to improve decision-making and thereby facilitate reforms to increase financing and funding in the water sector, enhance the utilization of already allocated funds, and raise the efficiency with which existing resources are employed to maximize development impact.

Report link: Water for Shared Prosperity

The World Bank and the Indonesian government launched a flagship publication Water for Shared Prosperity at the 10th World Water Forum in Indonesia. The report explores the connection between water and inclusive growth, providing insights that can inform practical solutions to the water crisis and better ways of managing water resources. It also presents new empirical evidence on the extent and costs of disparities in water access and the impacts of climate-related water shocks.

A new report, Droughts and Deficits: Summary Evidence of the Global Impact on Economic Growth, uses state-of the art empirical research to present new estimates of the effects of rainfall shocks and droughts on gross domestic product (GDP) growth.