Main Issue

Today the main water source for over 2 billion people is groundwater — underground stores of freshwater that also fill up rivers and lakes, supporting a myriad of services for humans and nature. Globally, more than 280 watersheds and over 300 aquifers cross the political boundaries of two or more countries. These watersheds, which cover about half of the Earth’s land surfaces, are home to about 40 percent of the global population. As income levels have risen globally, so has the demand for water. Many industries use extensive amounts of water, including manufacturing and food. The pressure on freshwater is immense, especially with the added complications of climate change. Read more+

What We Do

The GEF International Waters focal area is about creating a common understanding on competing water needs on the one hand and the gains from cooperation for each country on the other. Sustainable, integrated management of water resources requires cross-sector collaboration and sector reforms in each country to avoid conflicts in river basins or aquifers. Countries have to act nationally, but if they also take similar collective action, they have a much greater chance of avoiding or resolving water conflicts. Read more+


The GEF International Waters focal area has invested hundreds of millions of dollars to help countries balance water uses in strategic transboundary basins and aquifers, resulting in sustainable management of 43 transboundary river basins in 84 countries. The GEF’s work has shown that countries collaborate successfully when they realize the benefits of working together are greater than only pursuing national goals for water resources development. Read more+