Faced with cascading crises of a global pandemic, accelerated climate change and ecosystem collapse, a coalition of governments, businesses and water, development and climate organisations are working together through the Resilient Water Accelerator to drastically increase finance for climate-resilient water sources.

The impacts of climate change

Climate change is happening now and it is the world’s poorest and most marginalised communities – those who have done least to cause it – who are feeling its effects first and most severely. Without reliable access to basic services including clean water, good hygiene facilities and decent toilets, the struggles these communities already face are compounded by the effects of our changing climate. 

Unreliable access to water increases communities’ vulnerability to climate-related challenges, including changing weather patterns, less predictable rainfall, salt water intrusion and increased exposure to disease. Sewage systems flood with increasing frequency, contaminating nearby water sources and the local environment. Severe droughts force people to resort to increasingly unsafe sources of drinking water. And other effects on health become more likely – for example, in Bangladesh, rising seas are raising groundwater salinity, contributing to high blood pressure and heart disease among coastal communities. For many, these basic services can therefore be the key difference between coping and not coping with the devastating effects of climate change.

But well-managed water systems protect climate-impacted communities through access to reliable supplies of clean water for daily needs; ensuring water is available in a sustainable way for business and agriculture; and ensuring that water necessary to conserve ecosystems and biodiversity is protected. By managing threats, working with communities and prioritising basic services for all, water programmes can protect water for all and deliver socially, environmentally and economically beneficial outcomes.

There is not enough climate finance for adaptation action

What is available is poorly targeted

The most climate-vulnerable countries are among the world’s poorest. These countries need increased investment in water adaptation strategies, but do not currently receive the necessary financial support from international funding bodies and bilateral donors. Of total global climate finance flows, only 5% is spent on helping communities and business to adapt; and water programmes received less than 3% of all tracked global climate finance.

A tiny fraction of climate funds available is allocated to support communities through ensuring their access to water. Research has shown that only around 1% of public international climate investments goes to protecting basic water services for poor communities. This can mean as little as US$1 per person per year in some of the countries most vulnerable to climate change. This is despite the effects of climate change being felt predominantly through water.

However, increasing funding alone will not solve the problem. We also need to see the enabling conditions that will ensure money gets where it is needed most. Barriers to building effective climate-resilient water programmes include lack of localised data on climate vulnerability, which requires significant technical and academic capacity, which is also often lacking; lack of integration between different sectors with different priorities; high thresholds for accessing climate funding; and a complex landscape of bureaucratic architecture at national and international level, which can be hard to navigate. To ensure funding reaches those who need it most and builds community resilience, these barriers must be removed. 

Resilient Water Accelerator

The Accelerator will support country efforts to secure vital climate finance for water. It aims to build practical solutions to the water and climate crisis, support countries’ bids to secure climate finance and to ensure that more climate finance is fast-tracked towards protecting communities’ vital water services from a changing climate.

A landscape analysis of climate finance for water

Read 'Just add water', our report with Overseas Development Institute (ODI), indicating the desperately low level of climate finance available for adaptation interventions, especially water, sanitation and hygiene.

WaterAid/ DRIK/ Habibul Haque

Our approach to revolutionising climate finance

In March 2020, at WaterAid’s Water and Climate Summit, a high-level group led by HRH The Prince of Wales, pledged to work towards boosting climate finance to invest in the vital water services in developing countries to tackle the twin water and climate crises through a Water and Climate Finance Initiative. Subsequently, a group of technical experts met to identify key actions to begin delivery of this objective in time for COP26 in Glasgow, UK, in 2021. 

As part of this work, we commissioned a Landscape Analysis of Climate Finance for Water from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI). Published in November 2020, the report indicated the desperately low level of climate finance available for adaptation interventions, especially for basic water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). The group of experts proposed to focus the initiative on tackling the barriers to improved access to climate finance.

By actively supporting the setting up of facilitation partnerships at national level to draw together effective interventions, resilient methodologies, critical data, and targeted analysis and contributions, the initiative would deliver high-quality programmes for protecting water resources and improving access to water in a way that boosts community resilience and is low carbon. The proposal that arose – the Resilient Water Accelerator – was subsequently broadly welcomed by senior policy makers, agencies, and experts across the development, water resources, WASH and climate sectors at a high-level virtual meeting on 17 November 2020.

As we head into the crucial climate negotiations at COP in Glasgow later this year, this work will showcase that practical solutions to the water and climate crisis exist.  

The Resilient Water Accelerator will provide a template to secure development and future prosperity for vulnerable communities who have done least to cause the climate crisis.
Tim Wainwright, CEO, WaterAid UK

Resilient Water Accelerator 

Facilitated by WaterAid, and a Task Force of His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales’ Sustainable Markets Initiative (SMI), the Resilient Water Accelerator brings together governments, private sector players, development banks, aid agencies, CSOs and experts across environmental, development, WASH and climate sectors to build a pipeline of funded programmes that could reach 50 million vulnerable people in water-stressed areas in a decade, ensuring they are ready for the many challenges they face.  

Through an event at COP26 in November 2021, we will seek endorsement for the Accelerator on a global scale. We will have developed the approach, selected locations and secured funding for the Accelerator in time for the event, ready to support the preparation of programmes and to enter the Accelerator’s implementation phase.

The Accelerator is expected to deliver: 

  • An optimal design approach for climate-resilient water programmes, that accommodates WASH, water, nature-based solutions and climate change issues in a way that ensures long-term climate resilience and facilitates access to climate funding. 
  • At least US$20 million of funding to support the development of such comprehensive programmes in five to six locations in climate-vulnerable countries.

 The design approach is being developed through a series of workshops by a group of technical experts from a variety of governments, international organisations and private sector representatives (including the Dutch, Bangladesh, German and UK Governments, the African Development Bank (AfDB), Asian Development Bank (ADB), UNICEF, UNDP, Sanitation and Water for All (SWA), World Resources Institute (WRI), International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Alliance for Global Water Adaptation (AGWA), Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Civil Society Network on Climate Change (CIONECC) - Malawi and The Prince’s Foundation). 

Climate change

Learn more about why and how we work on climate change

Resilient Water Accelerator overview

See an overview of the Initiative in our briefing

Contact us

To find out more about the WCFI or the Resilient Water Accelerator please contact our Senior Policy Analyst Jonathan Farr

Top image: Cecile Oubda posing next to the borehole installed by WaterAid, in the district/hamlet Samb Naaba of the village of Basbedo, Boulgou province, Burkina Faso.