Improving water security for the poor


While water research and practice have traditionally been divided into two separate areas – water services for domestic use and water resources more broadly. ‘Water security’ is an approach that bridges this divide.

We work in Africa and South Asia, focusing on the under-researched linkages between: drinking water supply, water for livelihoods, water for economic growth and water ecosystem risks.

Our research looks at how water security risks impact poor women, men, girls, boys and marginalised groups, to inform better policies and practices that benefit all of these groups.

Find out more about the countries where we work, and the risk-based framework that underpins our approach to understanding, measuring and addressing water security. 

Water security is widely referred to as ‘ensuring sufficient quantity and quality of water for health, productive uses and the environment, with an acceptable level of water-related risks to people, environments and economies‘.

Water security and poverty

Water security is linked to poverty in many ways, for example:

Water and sanitation

Access to safe and adequate drinking water and sanitation improves public health by reducing water-related disease. Better health and time saved from fetching water enable better prospects for work or education.

Climate extremes

Extreme and sudden climate events, such as floods or droughts, can cause huge economic damage and have impact on vulnerable groups, deepening poverty or triggering major human displacement.

Water ecosystems

Water ecosystem damage or loss in wetland, river or lowland environments can have a disproportionate impact on vulnerable livelihoods that depend on these environments.

‘Access to water is a defining challenge for the 21st century. The UK has already helped 43 million people to access clean water, but there is far more to be done.’


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