Corruption in the water sector is widespread. It damages drinking supplies, sanitation, agriculture, energy and the environment. Achieving the Millennium Development Goal on water and sanitation is a massive task. Corruption wastes billions of dollars in these efforts. It makes water undrinkable, inaccessible and unaffordable. And since dirty water can be deadly, cleaning up the water sector is literally a matter of life and death for millions of people.
Water management, irrigation and dam projects are large, expensive and complex. This makes corruption in procurement and contracts both easy and profitable. Funds for managing water resources can line the pockets of corrupt officials. Big agricultural businesses can pay bribes for access to irrigation systems and groundwater supplies. This deprives smallholders of their livelihoods. Bribery also means that water pollution often goes unpunished.
Corruption keeps people thirsty and ill. It distorts policies and budgets for drinking water and sanitation, making it easy for waterborne diseases to spread. Corruption also affects service delivery and billing. Informal providers – often the only source of water delivery to the poor – can use extortion and bribery. In some developing countries, corruption can add 30-45 per cent to the price of connection to a water network. In such situations, families face a struggle to survive and escape poverty. The solution?