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Core Program Areas

Agriculture Education Emergencies Health HIV and AIDS Microfinance Peacebuilding Water and Sanitation

Cross-Cutting Areas

Capacity Strengthening Climate Change ICT4D IHD Monitoring and Evaluation Youth

Water and Sanitation

Clean water means better health, especially for young children. In emergency situations, access to clean water and a functioning sanitation infrastructure enables people to stay healthy while they cope during these stressful periods. Better water management in normal times allows communities to sustain or even improve the quantity and quality of their water sources, which means higher crop yields and healthier animals.

CRS partners with groups ranging from local governments and community water associations to international organizations such as Caritas on projects designed to improve water supplies for domestic, productive, and environmental purposes in the poorest of the world’s communities. Guided by the belief that everyone has the right to live a healthy, productive life with dignity, we help the poor gain access to adequate water for drinking, hygiene and sanitation, agriculture, industry, and other uses. In 2008, some 80 CRS projects East Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, South Asia, and Southeast Asia focused at least in part on water and sanitation.

Who Benefits?

Projects identify local needs and challenges through participatory assessments, and build capacity in local partners and communities. Participants include households, community water committees, women’s groups, farmers’ associations, schools, and health clinics.

Promoting gender equity and reducing sexual and gender-based violence are priority concerns for CRS. In the developing world, water scarcity imposes special hardships on women, who must fetch and carry water for back-breaking distances. CRS projects that bring water to villages and urban areas free women from that burden and permit them to work at other productive or income-generating activities or spend time with their families. Improvements to sanitation infrastructure foster community health and wellbeing in countless ways.


The success of CRS water and sanitation programming depends crucially on local partnerships. CRS works closely with Church institutions, such as Caritas and the Catholic Health Commission, and in partnership with a wide array of secular groups, including nongovernmental organizations, host governments, international agencies, local alliances, and others. These partners take responsibility for many of the myriad tasks involved in water and sanitation projects—drilling wells, installing pumps, laying pipe, building latrines, and conducting training and outreach, among many others. Without their understanding of the cultural, social, and political environment, we could not reach the most vulnerable in a sustainable way. CRS helps to build the technical, managerial, and financial capacity of our partners. Working in this way helps build and sustain healthy Church organizations and local nonprofits, improving their efforts gain access to adequate water.

Strategic Coalitions and Alliances

CRS participates in a growing number of innovative partnerships and coalitions with international partners dedicated to supporting investments in the water sector. Among these are the Global Water Initiative of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, the Millennium Water Alliance, the Global Water Challenge, and the Atlas Copco Drilling Solutions Partnership. CRS also works closely, but informally, with Water Advocates, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the International Water Management Institute, the USAID/AED Hygiene Improvement Program, and a number of universities (Johns Hopkins, University of Maryland, Penn State, Colorado School of Mines) on environmental health, water security, integrated water resources management, and integrated watershed development. And we are in contact with numerous organizations that promote development of sustainable water technologies.