Climate-resilient WASH: an integrated solution for climate action, sustainable agriculture and biodiversity – policy brief

Susmita, 13, watering her family’s garden at sunset in West Bengal, India.
Image: WaterAid/ Ranita Roy

Water, sanitation and hygiene are overlooked solutions to major environmental crises. This policy brief gathers evidence from various publications and field reports to outline how WASH can play a prominent role in meeting the challenges of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and sustainable agriculture.

Climate-resilient water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is essential for addressing environmental challenges. It ensures people have access to basic needs during environmental stress, in turn improving public health, gender equality, urban development, and employment opportunities.

Climate-resilient WASH systems prevent pollution, support sustainable agriculture, and contribute to climate mitigation and net-zero emissions efforts. They also contain the spread of diseases, helping to reduce malnutrition, the overuse of medicines and antimicrobial resistance, improving the health of humans and ecosystems, and enhancing agricultural productivity. Additionally, gender-sensitive, locally-led WASH initiatives foster better understanding of and sustainable responses to environmental hazards.

We recommend that governments, development partners and donors adopt a holistic approach to WASH, climate change, biodiversity and agriculture. They should:

  • Prioritise integrated water resources management for climate adaptation and mitigation, and to strengthen institutions, enhance cross-sector collaboration, and empower local communities.
  • Integrate climate-resilient WASH into strategies to prevent biodiversity loss and link human and environmental health.
  • Incorporate climate-resilient WASH into agricultural and food security strategies, and use it to promote hygiene behaviours and reduce malnutrition. 
  • Increase financing for WASH.
  • Allocate resources to support gender equality and marginalised groups, and ensure their perspectives, and women's perspectives, are represented in governance.

This policy brief is of interest to decision-makers, development organisations and donor countries. It is also intended to be a valuable resource for partner organisations in their advocacy work – both at the local and global levels. 

Top image: Susmita, 13, watering her family’s garden at sunset in West Bengal, India.