UN-Water defines water security as:

‘The capacity of a population to safeguard sustainable access to adequate quantities of and acceptable quality water for sustaining livelihoods, human well-being, and socio-economic development, for ensuring protection against water-borne pollution and water-related disasters, and for preserving ecosystems in a climate of peace and political stability’.

Water security is indisputably critical to life and the sustainability of livelihoods globally. However up to four billion people continue to experience severe water scarcity for at least one month each year and over two billion people live without adequate water supply. Only twenty-five out of fifty-four African countries experienced improved water security in the last five years. This project examines water security status, progress and ongoing inequities in achieving this goal across the global south.

The UN-Water definition of water security reflects its multi-dimensional nature, but it does not explain how to quantify or make it operational. Despite numerous research projects at a range of scales and geography, uptake of water security research into policy has been limited. This project addresses that challenge and operationalizes water security concepts at a regional, global and geographically specific scale, building on work already undertaken by UNU-INWEH and regional organizations, such as the Asian Development Bank, and the global WASH-based assessments of WHO and UNICEF.

Operationalizing water security requires development of meaningful metrics and indicators that can measure its various components, at different scales in various physiographic and socio-political contexts. This project applies clear metrics for a limited number of essential components of water security and tests these approaches in different regions of the Global South, including Africa, Latin American and the Caribbean, and the Asia-Pacific. These regional water security assessments are targeted towards policy actors including national, regional and global bodies including government agencies, development organizations and banks, and our UN partners. Special attention is given to specific geographies such as, Small Island Developing States, so that ultimately the project aims to provide a complete picture of water security across the Global South that can be readily updated as new data become available.

Another dimension of this project is its exploration of the links between water security and energy security, specifically hydropower. The project will investigate such inter-dependencies and highlight overlapping geographic strengths and weaknesses through the development of regional and global hydropower data sets and hydropower attributes that can be directly linked to water security.

Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown
Cyclone Pam- Tuvalu | UNDP | Silke von Brockhausen
Protecting drinking water from drought and sea level rise in Marshall Islands. | UNDP | PACC Program
Hydropower Plant | Photo Credit : Alexandru Chiriac

Example Outputs


Charlotte MacAlister

Cover photo:  UN Photos | Hurricane Sandy Causes Heavy Rains and Floods in Haiti

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