Water security in Vanuatu: A case study of FP191

4 November 2022, Category: All insights, Latest projects, News, Tags: , , , , , , , ,

water security in vanuatu

Ensuring climate-resilient water security in Vanuatu will address water access and safety needs of the country. One of our climate adaptation projects is helping to achieve that. 

At its 34th meeting of the board, the board members of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) approved nine new climate projects, worth USD 544.1 million in GCF funding and USD 1.7 billion with co-financing. 

One of these approved projects was ‘FP191: Enhancing Adaptation and Community Resilience by Improving Water Security in Vanuatu’. FP191 was developed by a small team of E Co. consultants, who played an integral role in the planning and proposal process, and we’re very proud that this project has been approved.

This project aims at providing a combination of awareness-raising and training activities to better equip communities and stakeholders involved in decision-making with the right tools to later plan and implement adaptation interventions.

Here’s a quick guide to project FP191.

Vanuatu: An overview

As a Small Island Developing State (SID), Vanuatu is incredibly vulnerable to climate change. According to the United Nations, climate change is the ‘most significant single threat to sustainable development’. For example, Vanuatu is at dire risk of extreme weather events such as tropical cyclones, but will also be much more at risk of erratic precipitation patterns and droughts, two issues which will heavily impact water issues in the archipelago nation.

Rising ocean water temperatures are set to impact the marine fisheries that Vanuatu, and other SIDs, greatly depend upon. Changing habitat temperatures have the effect of influencing the metabolism, growth and reproduction of fish and other aquatic creatures, negatively impacting their distribution and availability. While fishing makes up 0.7% of the national GDP[1], coastal fishing is primarily carried out for the subsistence of the local community, as most of Vanuatu’s population lives in these coastal zones. Changes to water composition and aquatic ecosystems further compound water resource management and sanitation challenges the nation faces, which include an increase in the incidence of flooding.

75% of the state’s population lives in mountainous volcanic islands, ones characterised by steep catchments and narrow coasts. This type of geography lends itself to higher vulnerability from flooding naturally. Additionally, freshwater supply is an issue, as Vanuatu’s climate is subject to wide inter and intra-annual variability of rainfall due to the considerable impact of the El Niño Southern Oscillation, limiting freshwater supply for both direct consumption and agriculture. Because of these interrelated issues, only one-third of households in Vanuatu have access to water twenty-four hours a day, with water rationing occurring frequently.

Past investments into water security did not properly account for climate-related issues and climate change impacts. For example, many hand-dug wells are used which suffer from a lack of raised well rings, unburied pipes, pipes that are not reinforced and uncovered tanks. Each of these problems raises the chances of both well failure and water contamination. A prime example of this comes from the most recent draft Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) for tropical cyclone Harold, where it estimates that the cost of damage to water infrastructure is around USD 17.4 million.

Future climate consequences

Future climate projections[2] published by the Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-hazard Department, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, and CSIRO, state that:

  • Tropical cyclones will be less frequent, but more intense.
  • Events of extreme rainfall will occur more often.
  • Air temperatures will increase alongside extreme elevated temperatures.
  • Sea levels will rise from between 3-18cm by 2030 under a high emission scenario.

Additionally, according to the IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate published in 2019, extreme El Niño events are projected to occur twice as often when compared to the twentieth century. Under these circumstances, Vanuatu is expected to experience increased climate variability and the frequency of droughts, adding an extra dimension of water stress to the area.

“While working on this assignment, the key issue that became clear to us was: the urgency as well as the importance of getting this right.
We did not want to reinvent the wheel and establish new processes but use the country-owned Community Drinking Water Safety and Security Plan processes to ensure financing can be channelled towards local-level investments. We also wanted to ensure that women are able to participate actively and meaningfully in user committees – and found evidence that this leads to improved management and maintenance of the systems.”

– Debasmita Boral Rolland, Consultant


The objectives of FP191

The objective of project FP191 is to scale-up climate-resilient water management processes that are safe and sustainable and work to improve water security in Vanuatu, especially for local communities. Through this, FP191 is targeted at strengthening the community-led Drinking Water Safety and Security plans (DWSSPs) and National Implementation Plan for Safe and Secure Water (NIP).

The government of Vanuatu currently runs a state-owned water management system, and this project will work to scale up that existing system. Alongside this, work will be done to enhance water resource management practices by improving the capacity of local stakeholders.

FP191 project details

The key details of project FP191 are as follows:

Total project value

USD 28.3m


USD 302.6k



Result areas

Health, food, and water security
Infrastructure and built environment
Livelihoods of people and communities

GCF financing

USD 23.3m

Total co-financing

USD 4.96m

So, what does the project actually entail? Essentially, it is made up of several aims and components:

  • An improvement of the DWSSPs methodology to better address climate vulnerabilities.
  • The development of climate-resilient rural water infrastructure.
  • The incorporation of climate considerations into engineering standards.
  • Institutional strengthening at the provincial and national levels to better address the climate risks associated with water security.

So what kind of potential benefits are to be had?

Project benefits for water security in Vanuatu

There are several benefits to be achieved within the adaptation plan set out by FP191. For example, Vanuatu could experience:

Better climate change adaptation capacity

Through improvements to climate-resilient water management and community-based planning, the adaptive capacity of rural communities to better cope with the additional burden of climate change on water security will be increased. This includes ensuring long-term resilience within water security, especially in the immediate aftermath of potential climate-induced disasters. The improvement of the DWSSPs methodology targets 600 communities as direct beneficiaries, and the full project will provide benefits to an estimated 74,230 people, which is around one-quarter of the population of Vanuatu.

A paradigm shift

FP191 works to strengthen the existing and quite unique whole-of-government approach that exists in Vanuatu, and the associated decision-making process that is decentralised, transparent, participative and evidence-based. By fundamentally changing the management of water infrastructure, the project will remove the costs of continually repairing and rebuilding post-disaster.

Ultimately, through empowering and supporting local communities to manage and operate their own water supplies, FP191 aims to break through the cycle of ‘build-neglect-rebuild’.

Sustainable development

FP191 will generate significant sustainable development benefits related to water security in Vanuatu, such as:

  • Improvement of poor wastewater management;
  • Better protection of water sources and forest water catchment areas;
  • Contribute to equitable water access as a basic human right;
  • Higher water safety leading to fewer negative health impacts;
  • An improved situation for women through their role in water committees.

Country ownership

The activities laid out in FP191 are directly aligned with the Government of Vanuatu’s goal for every rural community to have a DWSSP by 2030. The entire project itself is fully consistent with the country’s national climate change policies and strategies.

The need for funding

Due to the increasing frequency and intensity of climate-related disasters and natural hazards, it is increasingly difficult for water security and safety programmes to make lasting and climate-resilient improvements. For Vanuatu, it can cost tens of millions of dollars each year[3] to deal with the cost of natural disasters.

To break the cycle of building and rebuilding, a new approach is needed, one that incorporates risk management and climate change resilience from the outset. FP191, now approved and funded by the GCF, aims to do exactly that. By providing lasting, climate-resilient water security and safety solutions, this project will enable communities to recover faster after climate-induced disasters and will allow stretched government budgets to be directed to other important needs.

water security in vanuatu

“This was a challenging but interesting assignment to work on – the biggest challenge was access to information given the remoteness and development level in Vanuatu. Fortunately, we were able to work very effectively with the client (SPC) and the Department of Water Resources (DoWR), both executing entities in this project, and UNICEF as a key technical delivery partner to build up an in-depth picture of the needs and opportunities to address climate resilience in the water sector. Given Vanuatu’s remoteness, addressing water access and security is challenging, but the Government, SPC and UNICEF are rising to this challenge, now supported with climate finance from the GCF.”

Dr Grant Ballard-Tremeer, CEO


Explore more on GCF funding

Water security in Vanuatu is only one small part of the wider GCF funding focus. If you’re curious about the state of GCF funding and what current stakeholders are talking about at the moment, download our latest report. The 21st edition of GCF insight covers key topics that are currently being investigated and spoken about throughout the world of climate finance. Simply click the button below to download your PDF copy.


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[1] FAO, 2018. https://www.fao.org/fishery/en/facp/VUT [Accessed 31/10/2022].

[2] Pacific-Australia Climate Change Science and Adaptation Planning Program, https://www.pacificclimatechangescience.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/15_PACCSAP-Vanuatu-11pp_WEB.pdf [Accessed 04/11/2022]

[3] Pacific Catastrophe Risk Assessment and Financing Initiative. Country Risk Profile: Vanuatu. September 2011. “Vanuatu is expected to incur, on average, 48 million USD per year in losses due to earthquakes and tropical cyclones”

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