Overview of Australia's assistance for water resource management

How we are helping

2016-17 Budget Estimate:
$28.9 million

'Agriculture, fisheries and water' are one of the six priority areas of investments for Australia’s aid program. This priority reflects key poverty challenges in the Indo-Pacific, regional barriers to growth and Australia’s expertise and strengths. Australia is well-placed to assist countries in the region by sharing our experience and expertise in managing complex water management challenges, including addressing water scarcity and salinity.

Why we give aid

UN Water has estimated that by 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries with absolute water scarcity and two-thirds of the world’s population will be under water stress (defined as: an area is experiencing water stress when annual water supplies drop below 1,700 cubic metres per person and absolute scarcity once supplies drop below 500 cubic metres per person).

Improving water resource management is essential for ensuring there is adequate water for drinking, sanitation, agriculture, industry, and electricity generation, as well as protecting the environment and reducing water-related disasters. Additionally, improved water management for irrigation and domestic use can reduce labour inputs and increase productivity, particularly for women.

As the driest inhabited continent on earth, Australia has decades of experience in managing water scarcity. Countries in our region are keen to access our policy expertise and technology in water resource management.

How we give aid

Australia is sharing our water experience and expertise by supporting and funding technology transfer and training, knowledge sharing, and strengthening key institutions to improve water resource management throughout South and South East Asia and the Pacific.

The Australian Government has recently established an Australian Water Partnership (AWP) to share our water management practices with countries in the Indo-Pacific region in order to build capacity and improve sustainable water management.

The Australian Mekong Water Resources Program supports Mekong Countries (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, China and Myanmar) to guide water resource planning and decision-making; strengthen social and environmental standards associated with development activities in the river basin; build civil society’s capacity for involvement in water planning and management; and involve women in all aspects and sectors of this work.

In Cambodia, irrigation infrastructure is extensive and increasing. Australia is assisting the efficient use of irrigation water by working with government and non-government partners in the Cambodia Agricultural Value Chain program and a trilateral Cambodia-Australia-China Irrigation Dialogue. In Vietnam, Australia is working with the government to assess the likely impact on the Mekong delta and floodplains of upstream hydropower development, agricultural intensification, proposed water diversions and climate change.

In the South Asia region Australia is strengthening trans-boundary cooperation to improve water, food and energy security, with focus on the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable, particularly women and girls. The Sustainable Development Investment Portfolio (SDIP) targets a sub-region of South Asia defined by three major Himalayan river basins — the Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra — covering north-east Pakistan, northern India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.

A priority SDIP activity is the South Asia Water Initiative (SAWI), through which Australia is working with the UK and Norwegian Governments and the World Bank, to build knowledge and institutions, as well as to promote information-based dialogue between stakeholders in the region.

Water for development

Two people on a small fishing boat in a rural area of the Mekong region
Water management is critical for protecting wetlands and freshwater fisheries, a source of livelihood for millions of people in the Mekong region.