Expanding access to clean water through private sector investment
March 22 is World Water Day, an event that highlights the severe shortage of clean drinking water, and identifies the most promising solutions to address this global crisis. OPIC has partnered with American businesses on a number of water projects in developing countries, ranging from large-scale infrastructure construction to small-scale microfinance lending that has expanded access to irrigation equipment to help small farms in Africa use their water more efficiently.
In cooperation with the U.S. Water Partnership (USWP), OPIC is also working with other U.S. Government agencies to encourage collaboration between the public and private sectors to improve access to clean water in developing markets. OPIC and USWP recently met with private businesses to discuss ways to drive private investment in this sector.
While public sector resources are limited and often insufficient to address this far-reaching crisis, public-private partnerships can mobilize the skill, innovation and financing for projects that can improve the quality of life for large numbers of people. In Algeria, for example, OPIC provided financing for the construction of a reverse-osmosis water desalination plant that delivers up to 200,000 cubic meters of potable water to the capital city each day. The Hamma Water Desalination plant was built by Ionics Inc., a Watertown, Massachusetts company that was later acquired by GE. When it opened in 2008, it was the largest desalination plant in Algeria. Today, the project supplies clean drinking water to hundreds of thousands of families in and around Algeria’s capital city.
“The financing was just not available from other sources. This project literally would not have gone forward without OPIC,” said Mark Klaiber, General Manager, Hamma Water Desalination and GE Water & Process Technologies.