Accelerating the coverage of reliable access to safe and affordable water services

For more than 25 years, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation has been committed to improving access to safe drinking water in low-resource settings of Sub-Saharan Africa, Mexico and India. Our investments in the water sector have been guided by global ambitions, beginning first with the call to eradicate guinea worm followed by the Millennium Development Goals’ (MDGs) drinking water target. The adoption of Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) gives the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector a new global ambition to strive for – pushing for bigger and better services. The Foundation has embraced this bold challenge with the design and release of its 2017-2021 grantmaking strategy.


In alignment with SDG 6, our shared global vision is for every individual, health facility and school to have reliable access to safe and affordable water by 2030 and beyond.


In 2016, the Foundation’s board of directors approve a five-year Safe Water strategy to focus on efforts at a local administrative level to ensure adequate coverage and the progressive upgrade of quality services. We believe that the piloting and demonstration of solutions at a local administrative level (small town, municipality or district) is an important precursor to full-scale implementation. These locally defined areas will provide the space to test new solutions as well as expand already proven approaches. To ensure promising solutions can thrive and be sustained over time, investments will focus on building the policy environment and capabilities of key stakeholders and institutions (at all levels) to deliver on their responsibilities and full potential. Key components of the Safe Water strategy are:

1) Advance Proven and Promising Solutions and Models: There is no single solution to the issue of safe water. Multiple service delivery models are needed to improve coverage and quality of services. Some existing solutions are working, while others fall short. Effort will be placed on advancing proven solutions as well as identifying and testing new ones.

2) Strengthen Water Governance and In-Country Systems: To ensure new and proven solutions are sustained over time, the Foundation will strengthen in-country institutions and capacities of service providers and government authorities at all levels (local, district and national), who are ultimately responsible for meeting the needs of all water users.

3) Build and Disseminate Credible and Actionable Evidence: To influence policy, practice and investments at the national and global levels, the Foundation will build the evidence base for solutions and address key knowledge gaps. Credible evidence is essential to support the replication and scale up of solutions.

Over the next five years, the Foundation will work to simultaneously strengthen each of these focus areas, adjusting the approach to fit the context of the country and selected district. Proven solutions, such as microcredit schemes and piped water networks, will be promoted and marketed for replication, while promising solutions and models in areas such as financing and water quality treatment need to be identified and vetted, as well as provided the time to incubate and be tested. Key leaders and institutions require the skills and support to develop water policies, regulations and strategies, as well as systems and institutions to execute development plans. Service providers may have the capacity to deliver water delivery solutions, but may be hindered in doing so without a strong policy and regulatory environment and accurate data and information. By applying and strengthening all three areas, the Foundation believes that we can meet our goal of accelerating coverage to safe, reliable and affordable water in the countries where we work.

A map of Africa highlighting the countries of Niger, Mali, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Ethopia and Uganda


The Foundation has a long history of increasing access to clean water in water-stressed regions of the developing world, targeting ultra-poor and vulnerable populations living in these countries. Over the past two decades, the Foundation awarded more than $140 million in grants, providing access to water for over 2 million people.

Foundation Strategy Documents