Water is essential to life. From household drinking water and sanitation, to energy-generation by utilities, to crop irrigation, access to water is a critical element of economic growth and poverty reduction.
As part of MCC’s commitment to reduce poverty worldwide, the agency has invested $2.2 billion in clean water, sanitation, and natural resource improvement projects since 2004 in partner countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America.
Access to clean water and adequate sanitation is a fundamental pillar for improving the livelihoods and well-being of the world’s poor. Water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) investments help reduce illness from water-borne diseases, irrigation investments support increased agricultural productivity and farmer incomes, and natural resource protection—one of 20 indicators used to determine country eligibility for MCC program assistance—promotes long-term economic growth by providing essential natural resources, like water, and the benefits people obtain from ecosystems, such as climate regulation, clean air and water, renewable energy, and genetic diversity.
MCC’s Work with Partner Countries
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)
MCC’s WASH investments are designed to address the specific challenges our partner countries face. Many of MCC’s partners are investing in urban water and sanitation projects where rapid population growth is straining outdated infrastructure and weak water and sanitation utilities. These projects often include elements of policy, regulatory and utility reform—including the adoption of more efficient commercial practices, tariff setting, asset management systems, and non-revenue water management—all of which seek to increase sector efficiency and reduce the costs of service for consumers.
Policy Reform in Sierra Leone
In 2015, MCC and the Government of Sierra Leone began a partnership on a $44.4 million threshold program to implement policy reforms, build institutional capacity, and improve governance in the water and electricity sectors with a focus on the capital city of Freetown. By establishing independent regulations, strengthening key institutions, and increasing transparency and accountability, the program seeks to create a foundation for the delivery of financially sustainable water and electricity services, while limiting opportunities for corruption in the delivery of these services.
A Water Sector Reform Project, one of three projects under the threshold program, aims to improve overall sector governance, performance, and accountability by building capacity at the Freetown water utility—Guma Valley Water Company (GVWC). The project includes a demonstration activity to test new strategies for reducing water losses and combatting illegal connections, and a pilot activity to assess the viability of a new, private sector-led management model for outdoor public water sources. A study will also look into aspects of gender-based violence related to collecting water, and interventions will be identified and implemented in pilot areas.
Access to Water and Gender Integration in Zambia
Women and girls often suffer disproportionately from lack of access to clean water and adequate sanitation. To address inequalities, MCC’s $355 million compact with Zambia prioritizes social and gender integration while improving access to water and sanitation for people in the rapidly urbanizing capital of Lusaka. The compact invests in water supply, sanitation, and drainage infrastructure to decrease the incidence and prevalence of water-borne diseases, productive days lost due to disease and time to collect water, cost of water and new sanitation, and business and residential flood losses. Support is being provided to both the water utility and the local government for improving the understanding of gender and social inclusion into policies, improving service delivery to poor and underserved populations, and carrying out education and communications campaigns.
The compact is also funding the development of a Lusaka Water Supply, Sanitation and Drainage Master Plan through 2035. The plan will help the Government study and evaluate existing systems and identify additional projects for MCC and other investors long after the end of MCC’s compact.
Private Sector Participation in Jordan
MCC’s $275 million Jordan Compact includes a project to expand the As-Samra Wastewater Treatment Plant in partnership with a private-sector operator that is mobilizing a portion of construction costs. The As-Samra Plant was originally built with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development, and is the primary facility for treating wastewater from Jordan’s Amman and Zarqa Governorates.
The plant has been nearing its capacity. Without an expansion to properly handle growing volumes of wastewater in the region, the plant may become overloaded, its ability to treat wastewater properly may deteriorate, and farmers who rely on treated water for irrigation may face serious food safety risks and the loss of markets for their agricultural products. The As-Samra Expansion Project is designed to increase the treatment plant’s hydraulic capacity by one-third and its capacity for handling sludge by up to one-half, meeting the region’s wastewater treatment needs through 2025. The private sector partnership may also enhance operational sustainability by transferring some risks related to financing, construction and operations to the private sector.
Increasing populations and changing weather patterns are reducing the availability and reliability of water supplies. Irrigation is the largest user of water globally, and, for many of our country partners, agriculture is a large share of the national economy and one of the largest employers. Better and more efficient use of water in agriculture is a critical element of economic growth and poverty reduction.
Improved Irrigation and Market Access for Moldovan Farmers
For the last two decades, Moldovan agriculture suffered from low productivity, contributing to high rates of rural poverty. With its fertile soils, relatively long growing season, and proximity to both European Union and former Soviet markets, Moldova is ripe to regain competitiveness in high-value agriculture. But constraints like a shortage of reliable water, lack of financing, and limited access to markets and technology held Moldovan producers back. The MCC-funded Transition to High Value Agriculture Project was developed to address these constraints.
As part of its $262 million compact with Moldova, MCC helped organize 10 water user associations that are now managing and maintaining irrigation systems rehabilitated by the compact’s $130 million agriculture project. The new water user associations are an important example of a transparent and successful locally managed governance system in Moldova that can serve as an effective model for the future. The project also expanded access to financing so farmers can invest in their farms, and helped farmers grow higher-value crops and diversify their export markets. By diversifying export markets—including greater integration with Europe—the Moldovan economy will be better positioned to grow and withstand change in the produce market.
Water and Natural Resources Management
Protection of watersheds and corresponding natural systems combined with strategic engineered solutions is critical to protecting communities from floods and droughts; providing safe, clean, and reliable water; and promoting ecological for forests and fisheries.
Improving Energy Generation and Sustainable Land Use in Malawi
Close to 98 percent of Malawi’s energy is provided by three hydroelectric power plants along the Shire River Basin. This basin also has the highest population density in the country with families who support themselves through hillside farming and extracting charcoal and firewood from surrounding forests. The combined impact of agricultural expansion and deforestation has resulted in a 50% loss of forest cover from 1973 to 2010, and a 20-fold increase in soil erosion. The effects are also felt in the form of blackouts and brownouts that result from weeds and soil carried downstream by rainfalls and clogging power plant intake pipes.
MCC’s $351 million compact with the Government of Malawi is focused on reducing energy costs and improving productivity in the agriculture, manufacturing, and services sectors. The compact also includes a component to address the environmental and social factors that are impacting Malawi s hydropower plants.
Policies into Practice
MCC applies its principle of country ownership to the selection, design, and implementation of WASH projects. Once a country identifies lack of access to clean water and adequate sanitation as a primary constraint to economic growth and poverty reduction, MCC requires a comprehensive examination of challenges and opportunities for sector development.
MCC encourages partner countries to take a holistic perspective in project design, looking beyond engineering and infrastructure, to address elements of sector development like resource limitations, environmental challenges, water use and conservation policies, social- and gender-based barriers, and capacity of local institutions to enforce policies and operate infrastructure. This forward-looking approach to sector development ensures economic, technical, and social sustainability—all critical elements of lasting poverty reduction.