World Resource Institute

Water Action Track

For further information or to get involved, please contact Charles Iceland (, Joep Verhagen (, and Lisa Hartog (

The impacts of climate change are integrally connected to water systems and resources. A common adage is: “Water is to adaptation what energy is to mitigation.” Extreme weather events, including droughts and floods, are becoming more frequent and more severe and will negatively affect human development, as will increasing water scarcity and deteriorating water quality. Growing water risks threaten food security, economic growth, and urban development. Global security is also at risk, as increasing competition for water sparks conflict and migration. Vulnerable populations are impacted the hardest. The World Bank and the OECD estimate global losses from flood damage will cost US$1 trillion a year, while droughts can cripple national economies for decades. In some delta countries climate change is expected to decrease GDP by 4% to 19%. The Global Commission on Adaptation’s 2019 Adapt Now report states that by 2050, the number of people who confront water scarcity at least one month per year will soar to more than 5 billion, from 3.6 billion today.

Action Track Goal:

To accelerate and scale up climate adaptation and resilience in the water sector, and promote the concept of water as an essential enabler and connector to safeguard a sustainable and resilient future for all, everywhere.

Building a climate resilient water agenda. The Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA) reemphasizes that water is key to climate adaption in a holistic and all-encompassing manner. There is an undeniable and urgent need to scale up and accelerate actions and investments in water adaptation and resilience. The UN World Water Development Report 2020 signals that climate change adaptation through water is an enabler for sustainable development and is essential for attaining the goals of the NDCs and SDGs. The High-Level Panel on Water urges the water sector to engage with a wide range of stakeholders to take action to understand, value, and manage the growing water challenges that the world is facing.

1. Integrating the international water and climate dialogues

The Water Action Track (WAT) will implement a global communication, advocacy, and outreach campaign to prioritize water security across national and international levels, integrate the water agenda in the NDCs, and align and leverage financial flows for adaptation and resilience measures needed to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Key 2021 deliverable:

Bring together a Community of Practice at the CAS to share and disseminate new practices for integrating climate adaption and resilience in all water systems (and vice versa, to help integrate water security into all AT actions and programs). This Community of Practice will serve as an inclusive forum for partners to share their water-related climate action plans, targets, and activities and help build a community that develops capacity and fosters an enabling environment at the local, regional, national, and international levels.

2. Implementing a multi-pronged approach

The WAT will drive commitments, actions and advocacy through several initiatives: 1) support a global coalition consistent with GCA’s call to ensure that global COVID-19 relief and recovery is dedicated to scaling up WASH and integrates climate; 2) using the Climate Adaptation Summit (CAS) in January 2021 to commit to those transformative actions and commitments to build a foundation of adaptation change through water; 3) in partnership with key stakeholders – for instance the UK, Italy, the UNFCCC, and the NDC Partnership – link with and integrate water adaptation in the NDCs to strengthen and scale up needed actions leading up to COP26 in November 2021; 4) plan the Decade of Action with a Water Adaptation Community of Practice as a centerpiece to ensure commitment, consistency and continuity across public, private, institutional and informal partners.

Key 2021 deliverable:

A joint advocacy, communication and outreach initiative that helps galvanized support (through a global coalition) for the incorporation of water management into the COVID-19 recovery investments, the NDCs, and the SDGs, using the CAS as a stepping stone.

3. Supporting national policy dialogues and large-scale implementation of water adaptation and resilience programs

The WAT will support national policy dialogues and large-scale implementation of water adaptation and resilience programs across the entire water sector in river basins and deltas, coastal areas, cities, and dry landscapes. The WAT will identify, document, and disseminate good practices – projects, tools and methodologies, capacities, governance, finance and policy documents – across the water sector and different geographies (cities, river and regional basins, and agriculture). The aims are to ignite and support the development of resilient water resource management policies, initiate and support the design and implementation of projects, and support capacity building for policymakers, managers, and other actors. Priority will be given to strengthening natural defenses, investing in green and gray infrastructure, regulating water quality and flows, increasing storage capacity, and improving water use efficiency, particularly in agriculture.

Key 2021 deliverable:

Identify initial contributions among partners for short term innovative actions, long-term investments, institutional capacity, finance, governance, R&D and data to accelerate and scale up climate adaptation and resilience in the water sector. In addition, identify contributions COVID-19 recovery, transformative actions toward the CAS, linkages with the NDCs and programmatic approaches for the decade of action.

4. Addressing COVID-19

Water is fundamental not only to climate resilience and adaptation but also to maintaining sustainable economies. For example, improved WASH services strengthen both human health and economic development. As we see now with COVID-19, water and sanitation are a first line of defense against the pandemic’s impact and a critical investment for recovery. The WAT has the potential to play a pivotal role in the COVID-19 associated economic fall-out and in the financial response consistent with a quickly evolving global landscape. The Commission plans to issue a call to action highlighting the role of WASH and water in addressing the COVID-19 crisis, and underscoring the need to incorporate climate adaptation in the process of building back better, greener and more blue.

Key 2021 deliverables:

A joint and combined response to the COVID-19 crises and better preparation for future risks in which no one is left behind, through:

  • A long-term agenda that encourages all the water-related recovery projects to be sustainable and adaptive to the future challenges of climate change.
  • A call to action highlighting the role of WASH, water, and climate action in addressing the COVID-19 crisis.

Working across Action Tracks

Owing to water’s many interlinkages, the WAT is ideally positioned to connect with all the other Action Tracks, including agriculture, disaster risk management, energy, cities, nature-based solutions, and more. The Global Commission on Adaptation’s 2019 report explicitly states joint actions of the Water Action Track and the Nature-based Solutions and Cities Action Track. The Water Action Track is also partnering with the Finance Action Track, the Agriculture, Infrastructure, and Risk-Informed Early Action Partnership (REAP) on actions with regards to the Climate Adaptation Summit deliverables and long-term targets as described below.

Long-term targets

  • A transformational, resilient and inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 crisis through timely actions to build back better by the global community.
  • Efforts to better prepare for future risks via improved water, sanitation, and hygiene services (WASH) and improved management of water resources.
  • Strengthened climate and sustainability programs that take account of water risks, implemented by governments, multilateral development banks and private sector investors.
  • Scaled-up Community of Practice that invests in capacity building, both individual and institutional, for a strengthened and sustained enabling environment.
  • Innovative ways to scale up of water adaption investments.
  • A joint outreach, advocacy and communication strategy as a cornerstone of the WAT. This strategy will be supported by well-targeted capacity building, knowledge sharing and learning efforts that build on projects on the ground implemented by WAT partners and other stakeholders.

The communication and outreach campaign will use the COVID-19 recovery, the CAS, COP26 and the Decade of Action as important milestones and develop concrete events linked to the global summits. Events like Stockholm Water Week, and the UN Water Conference in 2023 will also be important milestones to accelerate implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

The core-partners of the Water Action Track are the Government of the Netherlands (Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, the World Bank (decision-making partner), the World Resources Institute, and the Global Center on Adaptation (managing partners).

Current Partners

  • Alliance for Global Water Adaptation (AGWA)
  • International Water Management Institute (IWMI)
  • Global Water Partnership
  • Government of the Netherlands
  • Water as Leverage (Netherlands initiative)
  • World Meteorological Organization (WMO
  • World Resources Institute
  • Danone
  • Delta Alliance
  • Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance
  • Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI)
  • United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE
  • Wetlands International
  • World Bank Group
  • Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development Germany (BMZ)
  • World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)
  • Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS)
  • Arup and The Resilience Shift
  • International Water Association
  • Alliance for Water Stewardship
  • CEO Water Mandate
  • Deltares
  • Pacific Institute
  • Water Youth Network
  • Women for Water Partnership
  • The World Economic Forum (WEF)
  • World Water Council