President Bush signed the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005 (the Act) on December 1, 2005. The Act sets out as a central goal the provision of affordable and equitable access to safe water and sanitation in developing countries as a key component of U.S. foreign assistance programs. It requires the Secretary of State, in consultation with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and other U.S. Government (USG) agencies, to develop a strategy "to provide affordable and equitable access to safe water and sanitation in developing countries" within the context of sound water management. It also requires the Secretary of State, in consultation with the USAID Administrator, to submit a report to Congress describing that strategy not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of the Act, and annual reports thereafter. The legislation also asks for a report to Congress on efforts that the United States is making to support and promote programs that develop river basin, aquifer, and other watershed-wide mechanisms for governance and cooperation.
This is the second report to Congress under the Act. It builds upon the 2006 Report to Congress, which laid out the U.S. strategy on water, overarching principles towards programming, and six key areas for U.S. activities.(1) In Fiscal Year (FY) 2006, USG agencies obligated, bilaterally and through multilateral institutions, more than $844 million in official development assistance for water, sanitation, and related activities around the world. From USAID's investment alone in FY 2006, over nine million people received improved access to safe drinking water, and close to 1.5 million people received improved access to sanitation. USAID has also increased aid in some of the hardest-hit areas of the world, such as sub-Saharan Africa.
In a significant step since last year, the 2007 Report to Congress lays out region-specific strategies and specifies countries for FY 2007 investments. This report also addresses several emerging issues, including climate variability and climate change, wastewater treatment, land-based sources of pollution and coastal issues, and the special needs of urban populations.
2. The U.S. Water for the Poor Strategy
Over the past year, the State Department and USAID worked jointly to create a new framework to ensure better coherence in the planning, allocation, and monitoring of U.S. foreign assistance. It also strengthened the focus on achieving a single, shared goal: to help build and sustain democratic, well-governed states that respond to the needs of their people, reduce widespread poverty, and conduct themselves responsibly in the international system. The five pillars in this new framework -- Peace and Security, Governing Justly and Democratically, Investing in People, Economic Growth, and Humanitarian Assistance -- all include elements related to water, although the bulk of programs fall in Investing in People, Economic Growth, and Humanitarian Assistance.
The community of USG agencies addressing development assistance issues has made significant progress in addressing issues requested by the legislation, such as establishing metrics for measuring progress, consulting with recipient country nations and analyzing needs and opportunities for U.S. engagement, and developing regional strategies. In practice, programming decisions for water-related activities are made on a country-by-country basis and generally consider the following factors:
- Level of need - based on international reports and local experience;
- Enabling environment - including government commitment to water sector reform;
- Comparative advantage - building on the USG's expertise relative to other donors; and
- Partnership and leveraging opportunities.