Water Security

15.4 million

peopled served by CRS water and sanitation work in 2019


health and sanitation projects in 2019


countries hosted CRS water and sanitation projects

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About Water Security

Water security means water is effectively and holistically managed to support human well-being, socio-economic development and the environment, with an emphasis on ensuring equitable access to safe water and sanitation for the very poor, the vulnerable and disaster-affected populations.


Water strategy


The United Nations estimates that roughly 3.6 billion people live in areas vulnerable to water scarcity and that number could reach 5.7 billion in 2050. Climate change, over-extraction of water from aquifers, and contamination of surface and groundwater all threaten ecosystems and freshwater availability. In nearly every part of the world, water is being polluted at a scale that threatens human health and economic development—for ourselves and for future generations. The ramifications of water resource loss are staggering.

Ensuring that all communities live in a water-secure world is foundational to humanitarian and development programs at Catholic Relief Services. Our strategic vision for 2030 centers on water security by asserting that water security is a human right, inalienably tied to our health, dignity and socio-economic development. As Pope Francis noted at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in February 2018, “The right to water is essential for the survival of persons and decisive for the future of humanity.”

Through 2030, CRS will strive to achieve its vision by empowering water stewardship in three principal areas:

  1. Water- and climate-smart agriculture.

  2. Innovative, scalable, adaptable, resource-neutral and gender-responsive water, sanitation and hygiene, or WASH, services.

  3. Improved, more equitable and inclusive water governance that increases financial investments in water.


Globally, women and girls carry the primary responsibility for domestic water supply, are at increased risk of violence due to poor access to water and sanitation, often have limited ability to sustain services due to poor purchasing power and have limited rights over water resources and decision-making authority concerning water use. Women are disproportionately affected by natural and man-made disasters in a host of ways. At the same time, “women also play a crucial but often unrecognized role in managing water for livelihoods and food security 1,” where women account for 43% of the agriculture workforce.

Water security programming at CRS recognizes that inequalities faced by women and girls undermine their development and therefore adopts a mainstreaming approach to ensure gender equality is included in all activities.

1. Grace Remmington, "Gender and Water Security: The Rest of the Puzzle," International Water Association, November 25, 2015

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