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World Water Day 2020: Five Ways USAID is Helping Thirsty Cities

USAID Water Team
Mar 13 · 6 min read

This World Water Day, March 22, we spotlight USAID’s efforts to help partner cities and towns around the globe avoid their own “day zero” scenarios, when taps run dry, and improve sustainable water access for the neediest.

Waiting in line for water should be a thing of the past, not a portent of the future. Photo credit: Shutterstock

Our world is becoming more urban, and USAID is helping partner countries adapt to this rapid change. By 2030, 68 percent of the world’s population will be living in cities, with the majority of that growth happening in the developing world. The infrastructure of these cities, peri-urban areas, and market towns is under great strain as their populations grow. Access to safe drinking water in many urban areas is actually declining in response to demographic shifts, while water insecurity is growing, particularly among the urban poor, as city planners struggle to adapt to changing water supply and demand.

With severe water shortages in major cities such as Cape Town, Mexico City, and Chennai recently grabbing headlines, USAID is helping partner cities and towns avoid their own “day zero” scenarios — when taps run dry — and improving sustainable water access for the most needy.

To commemorate World Water Day, here are five ways USAID is helping thirsty cities become more resilient in the face of a growing water crisis:

Increased revenues from CRM reform will be invested in augmenting and diversifying Cape Town’s water supplies to reduce the impact of future droughts. Photo credit: USAID WASH-FIN

1. Providing Professionalized Customer Service

Newly recruited younger staff members work in a water laboratory in Nigeria. Reforms in the country’s water sector are prioritizing youth engagement to improve service delivery. Photo credit: USAID E-WASH

2. Fostering a New Culture in the Water Service Sector

In Jordan, USAID helped launch an incentive-based program called Maana, meaning “with us,” which employs female plumbers to install a water-saving devices in customers’ homes. Photo credit: USAID Water Management Initiative

3. Conserving Water in an Era of Scarcity

The Haiti Water and Sanitation Project trained all the country’s semi-private municipal water utilities to use the mWater cloud-based data collection platform. Photo credit: Maxcy Ceant

4. Building the Capacity of Service Providers

Luciano Tapa, TCWS meter reader, delivers a computer-generated billing statement to a customer in Tagbilaran. Photo credit: USAID/Philippines

5. Partnering for Sustainable Solutions

This work to promote local utility reform, improve water quality management, and reduce non-revenue water is critical to ensure the reliability and sustainability of water services in growing urban areas. USAID is also committed to advancing rural water access, particularly for underserved poor and vulnerable households.

By Wendy Putnam, USAID’s Water Communications and Knowledge Management Project

This article appears in Global Waters, Vol. 11, Issue 1; for past issues of the magazine, visit Global Waters’ homepage on

Global Waters

Global Waters tells the story of USAID's water-related…

USAID Water Team

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USAID and its partners improve access to clean water and safe sanitation to create a healthier and more #WaterSecureWorld. For more, visit

Global Waters

Global Waters tells the story of USAID's water-related efforts around the globe, featuring in-depth articles exploring solutions to local as well as global water challenges, opinion pieces by development professionals, and first-hand accounts from stakeholders and beneficiaries.

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