Putting Nature to Work: Integrating Green and Gray Infrastructure for Water Security and Climate Resilience (2019)

This report shows how putting nature to work can help deliver infrastructure services with greater impact and lower cost, all the while reducing risks from disaster, boosting water security and enhancing climate resilience.

Primary Functions

  • Learn how integrating nature into mainstream infrastructure systems can produce lower cost and more resilient services.

Detailed Description


The world has huge infrastructure needs for economic growth, jobs, and poverty reduction. In developing countries, achieving the infrastructure-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and staying on track to limit global temperature increase to two degrees could cost 4.5 percent to 8 percent of GDP, depending on how efficiently it is done. A traditional focus on exclusively human-built “gray” infrastructure would put costs at the higher end of that spectrum and make it more challenging to meet these needs.

But this challenge also provides an incentive to take advantage of an opportunity we have always had: using “green” systems such as forests, wetlands, and mangroves to complement gray infrastructure. By harnessing the power of nature, infrastructure services can be provided at a lower cost while delivering greater impact.

In this report, the World Bank and World Resources Institute show how the next generation of infrastructure projects can tap natural systems and, where appropriate, integrate green and gray infrastructure. This call for the next generation of infrastructure—both green and gray—echoes the World Bank’s Changing Wealth of Nations 2018 report, which showed that natural capital can be leveraged rather than liquidated through the development process.

This report is essential reading for those responsible for delivering infrastructure services. Water and power utilities, storm and flood management agencies, and irrigation departments can use the guidelines to integrate natural approaches into their plans. Public officials can learn to how to enable green-gray infrastructure development through improved policies, laws, and regulations. Ministries of Finance and Budget can gain insights on how to approach financing, often a major barrier for infrastructure, by opening new financing channels from mission-driven investors and governments.

Additional information






SDG Targets

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WWF Mitigation

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