It is fitting that the focus of this year’s World Water Week is the connection between water security and food security. It has been an unusually dry summer throughout much of the U.S., and a drought in even a single major food-producing country poses an additional threat to world food prices, which are already at an all-time high.
Even before the 2012 drought called attention to the close link between water and food, obtaining an adequate supply of clean water has been a key challenge for the developing world for several reasons. In order to produce enough food to feed a growing planet, farmers will need increased access to clean water, as well as technology, to help them use that water more efficiently. Moreover, unclean drinking water poses a huge health crisis in much of the developing world. For example, in Ghana, where OPIC has provided political risk insurance to a company working on the country’s National Water Infrastructure Modernization Project, a shortage of clean water and sanitation systems is associated with 20,000 deaths per year.
OPIC is a part of the U.S. Water Partnership that was launched in June to address global water challenges. The partnership is made up of 41 members, including U.S. government agencies, academic organizations, water coalitions, NGOs and the private sector, who will pool resources to address water challenges around the world.
OPIC has a long history of supporting projects aimed at increasing the supply of clean drinking water and improving sanitation:
- In Algeria, OPIC financing has supported construction of a reverse-osmosis water desalination facility, which provides clean water for about 350,000 families in and around Algiers.
- In Mexico, OPIC political risk insurance is supporting a small business supplying more efficient irrigation technologies that can reduce the water used in farming by up to 80%.
- OPIC’s work supporting Ghana’s National Water Infrastructure Modernization Project is expected to increase the availability of clean water from 61% to 85% by 2015 and increase the efficiency of the country’s water treatment plants from 77% utilization to 100%.