U.S. Strategy Needed for Water Supply Assistance to Developing Countries

Gao ID: ID-81-51 August 25, 1981

A review was conducted of water resources development activities and problems in developing countries, especially those problems associated with providing community water supplies. The United States has not developed water policies and strategies despite the fact that much of the billions of dollars in financial support for developing country water projects emanates either directly or indirectly from the United States.

Numerous problems and constraints limit the progress that developing countries can make toward the United Nations' (UN) goal to provide clean water and adequate sanitation for all by the year 1990. These major constraints involve: funding; institutional and manpower needs; concentration of assistance in urban areas, even though the rural poor are in greatest need; and problems in maintaining facilities. Funding assistance needed will have to more than double and developing countries would have to double their own funding just to meet the minimum needed to attain the UN goal. Even if sufficient funds were provided, developing countries would not be able to use the funds efficiently and in time to meet the goal because of a lack of trained personnel. Most of the projects to date have been in urban areas. However, about 70 percent of the population in developing countries live in rural areas. Since developing countries decide themselves where the projects are to be located, the donors need to exert influence to ensure that the rural areas receive at least a portion of the assistance given. Further, information is not systematically generated to apprise host governments and aid donors of water supply maintenance problems and projects which need rehabilitation. Such information could be helpful in deciding how to make the best use of available funds for increased access to water supplies by the people of developing countries.


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