Water Security: A QuickLook at Leading Organizations


June 2, 2021

The 2021 United Nations World Water Development Report estimated that “4 billion people live in areas that suffer from severe physical i.e. seasonal water scarcity for at least one month per year. And about 1.6 billion people face ‘economic’ water scarcity, which means that, while water may be physically available, they lack the necessary infrastructure to access that water.” This situation will only worsen as demand for water grows and the effects of climate change intensify.

This information showcases the fact that water security is a major concern, i.e. that there are problems with “the capacity of a population to safeguard sustainable access to adequate  quantities of acceptable quality water.” (UN-Water)

Many organizations are addressing these problems.  The Security & Sustainability Guide Subject Index currently lists 80 of them. Some of the leading organizations that deal with water management and accessibility are described below.

Global Water Partnership (1994; Stockholm)

Founded by the World Bank, the UNDP, and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, it aims to foster integrated water resource management (IWRM). It seeks to create a water secure world by working on advancing “governance and management of water resources for sustainable and equitable development.”

Stockholm International Water Institute (1991; Stockholm)

Seeks to “develop policies and science-based solutions to water-related challenges” to ensure that water is shared and allocated to meet everyone’s basic needs.

Twenty Thirty Water Resources Group (2008; Washington)

Hosted by the World Bank Group, the organisation supports country-level collaboration. It works to help governments, water officials and other water sector specialists accelerate reforms that will ensure sustainable water resource management for long-term development and economic growth.

International Water Association (1999; London)

Works with an “interdisciplinary network of water professionals and partners to create a water-wise world.” The experts “collaborate and combine their knowledge to spread practical know-how throughout the entire water cycle to help it reduce, reuse, and replenish water resources.”

International Water Resources Association (1971; Paris)

Provides “a global, knowledge-based, forum for bridging disciplines and geographies by connecting professionals, students, individuals, corporations and institutions who are concerned with the sustainable management and use of the world’s water resources.”

Third World Centre for Water Management (1999; Mexico City)

Aims to “promote efficient water management and equitable water use” by considering the problems of today and the possible issues of the future. It is a “knowledge-based and application oriented think tank,” which focuses on four specific areas: “knowledge generation, knowledge synthesis, knowledge application and knowledge dissemination.”

Food & Water Watch (2005; Washington)

Works to “mobilize people [at the local, state, and federal level] to build political power” in an attempt to  generate “solutions to the most pressing food, water, and climate problems of our time.”

International Hydrological Programme  (1975; Paris)

“UNESCO’s international scientific cooperative program in water research, water resource management, water education, and capacity- building.” It operates as a “global network that works together to implement the organization’s strategic goals.”

Clean Water Action (1972; Washington)

An environmental advocacy group that aims to “solve environmental and community problems.” It works to “win strong health and environmental protections by bringing issue expertise, solution-oriented thinking and people power to the table.” 

International Rivers (1985; Oakland, CA)

Strives “to protect rivers and defend the rights of communities that depend on them.” It works on “shifting the water and energy paradigm away from destructive dams and towards more sustainable options” by generating “international awareness of these issues and their consequences through research, education, and advocacy.”

The Water Footprint Network (2002; Enschade, The Netherlands)

Brings together a “global community of dedicated individuals and committed organizations” to achieve fair and smart water use. They facilitate “initiating activities, sharing best practices and developing tools and materials” that help reach their mission.

Pacific Institute (1987; Oakland CA)

Combines “science-based thought leadership with active outreach to influence local, national, and international efforts to develop sustainable water policies.” It works to “promote policy solutions based on our research and analysis.”

WaterAid (1981; Washington)

Collaborates on “regional and global advocacy and campaigns to influence governments, companies and international institutions”. It operates on the belief that “water, toilets and hygiene are a human right; there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution; toilets and hygiene save lives; together, everyone can help transform lives”.

Millennium Water Alliance (2002; Houston)

A “permanent and operational alliance of leading organizations and enterprises working to bring safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene to millions of people in poor communities in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.” 

Sustainable WASH (2012; Cambodia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda)

Works to develop, test, and document high-potential systems approaches for local water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) service delivery” so that they may “increase the availability and sustainable management of safe water and sanitation for the unserved and most vulnerable.”

IRC WASH (1968; The Hague)

Drives resilient Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) systems from the ground up. It aims to create universal WASH access, and collaborate with partners around the world. Their work focuses on six countries: Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Honduras, India, and Uganda; supporting and influencing governments and organizations from 20 other nations to transform the way they work.

PumpMakers (2010; Austria) 

Aims to “tackle the global water crisis through the development of solar pump systems. It  focuses on “solar pump systems for the supply of rural and urban areas with access to water, internet, power & light.” They also “offer water exploration, water well construction, WASH solutions and agricultural purposes.”


These organizations and groups are just a sampling of the ones working to improve the way that the world’s water resources are managed and distributed. It’s not simply a case of needing more water- we must stop polluting what we have and find a way to manage it better so that it’s accessible to everyone.

Better policy decisions, and a focus on water management, is needed or water resources will be depleted in areas where they are currently in abundance (such as in Central Africa) and scarcity will worsen in regions where access to water is already a problem (such as in the Middle East). 

Two books are especially recommended that take a broad look at water security, albeit in quite different ways:

          Water Security: The Water-Food-Energy-Climate Nexus (Island Press, 2011; 248p), by The World Economic Forum Water Initiative, has chapters on water scarcity and agriculture, water and energy, the water-trade nexus, national security, water supply in cities, sanitation issues, risks and challenges for business, investing in water, climate change and water supply-demand, new economic frameworks for the supply-demand gap to 2030, and public-private water partnerships.  Each chapter has sections on background, trends, forecast, implications, the way forward and perspectives.  Although ten years old, this concise overview demonstrates the wide range of water issues.             

     Replenish: The Virtuous Cycle of Water and Prosperity (Island Press, 2017) is by Sandra Postel, formerly of the Worldwatch Institute and author of many books and articles on water.  She covers working with nature to restore watersheds and floodplains, the downsides of large-scale water engineering projects, conserving water in cities, rescuing desert rivers, water banking, preparing for drought, and “generally strengthening water security.”                                                                                

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