No life without water

Water is vitally important for people and for the environment. We need water for drinking, but also for agriculture in order to produce food. We use water to generate energy, some of which we then use to treat water and pump it to consumers.

A farmer in Togo irrigates his field.

Industry, too, needs water in order to produce goods. Last but not least, all of the world's ecosystems depend on water – not only lakes, wetlands and water meadows, but also forests, tundras and semiarid land.

Population growth and economic development means a tremendous increase in water consumption. This puts enormous pressure on scarce water resources and on the infrastructure available to supply people with water. As 80 per cent of all wastewater worldwide is not treated, water resources are becoming seriously polluted – leading to diseases, with children being especially hard hit.

Water resources need to be managed effectively and in a sustainable manner in order to be able to supply enough safe drinking water for a growing number of people now and in the future and to protect our natural resource base. German development cooperation measures help tackle this task in many different ways.

The BMZ's new water strategy

The BMZ's new water strategy is a contribution to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris climate agreement. It is the binding basis for official development cooperation measures and defines solutions for achieving these goals. It sets out the requirements for projects in the water sector aimed at realising the human rights of access to safe drinking water and sustainable sanitation. Also part of the strategy are the linkages in the water sector with mitigation and adaptation to climate change and the topics of peace and displacement.

Development cooperation in other sectors also needs to be in line with this sector strategy if it touches on water issues. This is extremely important because the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 SDGs can only be implemented if cross linkages are adequately taken into account as well. It is for these same reasons that the strategy emphasises the principles of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) and of the water, energy and food security nexus.

Students at a drinking fountain

International water policy

The international community has demonstrated how important water is by making water an ambitious stand-alone goal in the 2030 Agenda. The German government actively voices its positions in international processes, contributing to shaping international water policy. more

A water pump in a rice paddy

Water and food security

Human beings can only survive a few days without water. We need our most vital resource every day in the form of drinking water, and to produce and prepare food. Worldwide, more than half of all cases of malnutrition are linked to inadequate water supply and poor sanitation. more

People washing their clothes in a camp for internally displaced persons in the South Sudanese capital Juba

Water and migration

At the moment, there are more displaced people worldwide than at any other time since World War II. Poverty, a dearth of economic opportunities, poor governance and a lack of political participation are common causes of displacement. Factors such as water shortages or recurrent flooding play a crucial role as well, because they impact negatively on people's living conditions. more

Gardeners in a nursery for mangroves. The trees are planted to prevent soil erosion due to flooding.

Water and climate change

Melting glaciers, rising sea levels, more extreme weather events such as droughts and flooding: climate change manifests itself in many ways, almost always through too much or too little water. Since climate change has such a direct impact on water resources, the water sector is one of the main focus areas of development cooperation efforts aimed at supporting climate change adaptation. more

A hydropower station

Water and energy

Water is an indispensable input for energy supply. Water can generate energy by powering the turbines of hydropower plants. It is needed as a cooling agent for coal-fired, gas-fired and nuclear power plants, and for irrigating crops grown for biodiesel or biogas. But we not only use water to generate energy, we also use up energy when we use or consume water. more

A girl in Laos drinking water from a safe source

Drinking water supply

Polluted water is one of the most frequent causes of disease and death worldwide. In many regions, people do not have safe drinking water close to their homes. German development cooperation supports partner countries in their efforts to improve supply systems. The aim is to give all people access to water via piped water supply systems in their homes. more

Sewage treatment plant in Mongolia


The challenges in the field of sanitation are enormous. According to a UN report from July 2017, 4.5 billion people worldwide have no access to safe toilet facilities. They have no adequate sanitation facilities, for which arrangements for the disposal of faeces must also be in place. more

Women fetching water at a cistern in the city of Thula, Yemen

Water resources management

In order to ensure that future generations will still have safe drinking water, water resources need to be managed sustainably. Water abstraction should not exceed the natural replenishment volume. Non-renewable groundwater resources should be preserved as strategic reserves. more

GIZ employees at a planning meeting in Nicaragua

Water cooperation

In many cases, rivers, lakes and groundwater reserves cross the territory of two or more countries. The scarcer water becomes the greater its capacity to trigger crises and conflicts. At the same time, transboundary water catchment areas also provide incentives for cooperation. more

Woman sitting at her laptop

Further information

Here is a selection of links to documents and websites offering further information on the subject of water. more

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