Deputy Administrator Isobel Coleman Delivers Keynote at the Congressional Global Water Strategy Launch

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Wednesday, November 16, 2022
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DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR COLEMAN: Thank you, Noam. And also my thanks to Representative Blumenauer for your leadership on this issue, and to Representative LaHood, thank you. You really have done an amazing job in getting us where we are today.

I also want to acknowledge the late Representative Walorski for her service and legacy of progress on global water issues.

Today’s threats to development gains intersect in ways that underscore the importance of our work to build a water-secure world.

The COVID-19 pandemic was a wake-up call and a reminder that more more than a quarter of the world’s population lacks access to handwashing with water and soap, which is critical for preventing the spread of the disease.

The linkages between water security and a changing climate are as magnified as they’ve ever been, from historic flooding in Pakistan – leaving a third of the country under water – to the megadrought crippling the Horn of Africa.

And as conflict around the world continues to rise, water can serve as a weapon of war, as we’ve seen in Ukraine where water infrastructure has been razed, leaving innocent civilians without essential services.

Its scarcity also serves as a cause or an accelerator of conflicts, as we’ve observed in Iran, Somalia, Kenya, and other countries spanning almost every continent.

U.S. leadership is needed now more than ever. In May, Vice President Harris launched the first-ever White House Action Plan on Global Water Security – a plan that will now be operationalized by the newly refreshed U.S. Global Water Strategy.

With the release of the White House Action Plan and the Global Water Strategy, the United States is demonstrating its commitment to driving progress on global water security.

At USAID, our water investments under the Action Plan and the newly refreshed Global Water Strategy will enable crucial progress on access to water and sanitation services, as well as improved management of water resources, over the next five years.

The Agency and world have made great strides in reaching people without access to basic services since 2008, when USAID significantly increased its investments in water, sanitation, and hygiene.

We have helped nearly 60 million people gain access to safe drinking water and 44 million people gain access to safe sanitation – more than half of whom were women and girls.

But as an Agency, we recognize that our investments must stretch further to deliver transformational and lasting changes. Two billion people still lack access to safe drinking water, with the greatest disparities held by poor and rural populations.

The 2022 U.S. Global Water Strategy lays out a strategic vision for how we will adjust to shocks we yet can’t yet predict.

USAID will ensure that our country partners have the infrastructure and flexibility to prepare for future shocks, including by deepening our partnerships with local and national governments, the private sector, and civil society.

Over the next five years, USAID aims to reach an additional 22 million people with safe drinking water, and an additional 22 million with sanitation.

We aim to strengthen 1,000 water security institutions; and mobilize one billion dollars in water and sanitation finance.

These targets prioritize reaching people who have never before had access to water and sanitation, strengthening the capacity of the institutions and providers responsible for delivering high-quality, equitable, climate-resilient services, and leveraging the finance needed to help governments and local partners lead on sustainable water solutions.

The White House Action Plan and the Global Water Strategy will also allow us to accelerate efforts to address management of water resources, expanding our investments in places such as northeast Kenya, where USAID is working with the U.S. Geological Survey to map groundwater resources by combining geospatial data from remote sensing and traditional hydro-geological methods.

Our work includes training local authorities and service providers to expand service provision, especially in arid regions where water pumps often have low productivity.

By measuring the available water supply, local water agencies have the information needed to manage the resource wisely in a sustainable manner using the tools of good governance.

I’m also excited about the Strategy’s new commitment to bridge humanitarian, development, and peacebuilding investments.

WASH is among the first needs considered by our Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance when it responds to a crisis. But emergency WASH is not enough as the world continues to see more and more protracted crises.

That’s why USAID has committed to new ways of working, including joint planning across the Bureaus, to ensure that the handoff between development and humanitarian work and back again is smooth as circumstances on the ground change.

We will build from ongoing collaboration in places like the Sahel, where joint planning with counterpart governments has led development WASH programming to focus on building the capacity of local commune governments to manage water resources and water and sanitation services.

In parallel, USAID humanitarian WASH activities work in the same areas at the village level to improve access to basic drinking water and sanitation services.

By working within the humanitarian-development nexus, USAID will more effectively support people during crises and be ready should disaster strike.

I’ve seen firsthand, as I’m sure many of you have as well, the impact that water security and access to sanitation have on people’s lives.

Water access and security give girls the opportunity to go to school and women the chance to go to work.

Those investments make it possible to grow food to feed the world, run businesses, and keep us healthy.

They promote democracy, cooperation, and peace.

Over the next five years, USAID looks forward to working in partnership to advance a water-secure world for all.

Thank you so much.

Last updated: November 16, 2022

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