Main Issue

As national economies develop, often river basin water resources are progressively diverted, channeled, dammed, and consumed.  Many countries use 70 to 90% of water withdrawals for irrigation. At the same time, the drive to produce food and generate foreign exchange from agricultural exports or to produce and sell hydropower can outweigh environmental and health concerns. 

With mounting pressures on water resources, increasing pressures from climate variability and change, and increasing globalization of supply chains, cooperation across sectors and countries in the management of surface and groundwater is the only sustainable path. Drastic changes are needed in how we view such water systems. We need more integrated approaches that work across sectors to respect and balance the multiple uses of water in catchments and floodplains. These approaches need to include accounting for ecosystems values, increasing the efficiency of water uses, reduction of water pollution from toxic substances that impair human and ecosystem health, as well as advancing information exchange and early warning systems to foster improved responses to disasters such as floods and droughts.

What We Do

GEF support focuses on interventions in shared basins where water stress creates a challenge but also can be a driver and opportunity for cooperation. GEF Interventions prioritize preventative actions in transboundary basins facing multiple stressors and hence potential for conflict on national and regional levels. GEF takes an integrated water resource management approach to the challenge of shared river and lake basins. The GEF brings stakeholders together to balance competing water uses and secure local benefits for their communities. Whether it is the Niger River Basin or the Amazon River Basin, GEF projects are helping governments to work together on these important regional issues.

GEF targets legal, policy, and institutional reforms to address priority threats. It supports regional institutional development, provides technical assistance, and supports agreed priority investments. The GEF also provides support for nations to discuss and resolve conflicting views in a transparent manner.


The cumulative IW portfolio consists of more than 360 projects, with about US$1.9 billion of GEF grants and $12.9 billion in co-finance from countries, donors, NGOs, and the private sector invested in more than 170 GEF recipient countries. The IW portfolio has delivered substantive results and replicable experiences that can be scaled up and mainstreamed globally. Read more+

Looking Ahead

In GEF-7, the GEF will focus on supporting enhanced regional and national cooperation processes on shared freshwater surface and groundwater basins. Among the areas the GEF will invest in are: Read more+