Urban Water Resilience Finance Intern

World Resources Institute (WRI)

Washington, D.C., USA 🇺🇸

Internship Summary:

As the urban water resilience finance intern, you will work closely with the team developing the financing architecture for the Urban Water Resilience Catalytic Fund and provide support in developing research on innovative financing mechanisms for low carbon water resilience solutions that could meet the needs of African cities. The goal of the research will be to create a repository of successful case studies that identify how cities and communities are blending public and private capital to deliver innovative practical solutions to mitigate flood risks; extend affordable & reliable water and sanitation services; reduce risk of water pollution and improve wastewater management; improve water security by promoting water reuse, recycling; and advance the use of grey-green and blue solutions to build water resilience. The case study writeups will focus on identifying and describing funding and financing models in detail for each project/solution type. This would include the three traditional funding streams that water sector projects are dependent on, Tariffs, Taxes and Transfers. In addition to other blended finance elements like grant, debt and equity investment from private sector, philanthropy, multi-lateral/bilateral donors, financial institutions, banks, etc. This includes research on mechanisms such as green bonds, pay for success (PFS) risk sharing strategies, pooled funding models like water funds, payment for ecosystem services models, etc.

The project types to research include but are not limited to:

  • Nature based solutions for flood management, water quality improvement and wastewater treatment Non-revenue water reduction strategies for utilities
  • Household and city scale rainwater harvesting programs
  • Integrated fecal sludge management programs
  • Job creation and circular economy programs for solid waste management
  • Wastewater treatment, reuse and recycling solutions
  • Decentralized sanitation solutions and financing models
  • Point of use and decentralized water treatment solutions

The case studies will document the following key elements from successful implementation of projects:

  • Relevance of the project, key risks addressed, resilience benefits delivered
  • Project background and key concerns
  • Key technical implementation needs
  • Institutional and legal arrangement of the project implemented
  • Economic valuation of the project, capital requirements and bankability
  • Illustrative transaction models, including subsidies, concessions and enabling conditions (policy incentives) needed for successful transaction
  • Social and political considerations for the project implementation
  • Pre-conditions for project delivery
  • Maturity of solution based on evidence

Internship Learning Outcomes:

The intern will have the opportunity to learn to:

  • Review city actions plan reports that are currently being prepared in 6 cities, to confirm and prioritize project types to be researched for financing models
  • Develop detailed understanding of how cities are innovating to meet funding and financing gaps in the water sector
  • Review and synthesize research and document analysis on project level funding and financing mechanisms in a systematic and organized manner
  • Work with the project team to identify and develop effective approaches to share case study information with city stakeholders through workshops, webinars, etc.
  • Liaise with WRI staff and partners to confirm case study research and project synergies
  • Provide support in integrating case study research insights in funding proposals for the catalytic fund

Internship Qualifications:

  • University-sponsored: Student currently studying natural resources management or related field; with a focus on finance and funding
  • Candidates with specific interest in water sector policy, funding and financing issues will be given preference
  • Previous interest and research experience in public finance, municipal finance/budgeting and or international climate finance, etc. are relevant for this work
  • Strong research, written and communication skills are required for the work
  • The ability to present complex information in a clear and concise manner is key
  • Candidates will need to be detail oriented, well organized and systematic in structuring information
  • Comfortable interning remotely


University Sponsored: This position is dependent on the student receiving compensation from their university program. WRI does not offer compensation for this internship.

Duration and Location  

  • This is a full-time, 3-months internship with flexible start and end dates based on the student’s availability and need for the project.
  • This is a remote-based internship with the option to work out of the Washington D.C. office once it reopens.
  • WRI will provide a laptop for the duration of your internship.

How to Apply

Please submit a resume and cover letter. Applicants must apply through the WRI Careers portal to be considered.

Program Overview (for Internship):

Africa is the most rapidly urbanizing continent. By 2050, Africa’s urban population will more than double. Impacts from climate change will worsen water availability in city-regions, while water demand in Africa is projected to triple by 2030. Led by WRI and partners, the Urban Water Resilience (UWR) in Africa Initiative is working with key stakeholders in Africa to help cities address their water risks and vulnerabilities through research, spatial analysis, technical assistance, capacity building to undertake strategic planning and identify place-based interventions and securing funding and financing resources to implement solutions.

The UWR Initiative is built around three core workstreams:

1) City-level strategic water resilience planning in six cities across three countries: Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa in Ethiopia, Kigali and Musanze in Rwanda, and Johannesburg and Gqeberha in South Africa.

2) An action coalition to accelerate the delivery of urban water resilience solutions in African cities through a shared framework for ambitious, accountable, and coordinated action to ensure impact at scale.

3) Development of a Catalytic Fund to scale investment in emerging low carbon resilience solutions in the water sector. As the urban water resilience finance intern your research will focus on the third workstream of the project which recognizes the need for catalytic funding in the water sector.

Today over $114 billion in annual investment is needed by 2030 to achieve universal access to water and sanitation, but only $4 billion is invested in payment for ecosystem services and less than 1% of private investment is going to the water sector. In addition, for a majority of cities in Africa with 40-60% of the population living in informal settlements, access to basic water and sanitation services is lacking. While extending access to basic water and sanitation services is urgent, these cities and communities are already suffering challenges of recurring flooding events and simultaneous long standing dry spells and droughts that call for the need to invest in climate resilient solutions.

Traditional centralized water systems of supply and fragmented distribution systems that depend on long distance transfers might not only be cost-prohibitive, wasteful and energy intensive, but also more vulnerable to climate risks. As cities in low- and middle-income countries plan to extend coverage to growing populations, new low carbon closed loop solutions and more resource efficient systems need to be considered. But these emerging solutions need new financing models to be developed that are suited to local contexts and tested to be mainstreamed. The Catalytic Fund aims to take a focused, strategic approach to investing in low carbon and high resilience impact solutions in the water sector, piloting them in cities and developing standardized frameworks of financing and procurement to scale them from 6 cities to 100 cities in Africa by 2032. You will support research to identify these mechanisms and develop ways of sharing them with the 6 cities that are part of the UWR program.

WRI Overview

World Resources Institute (WRI) is an independent, nonprofit global research organization that turns big ideas into action at the nexus of environment, economic opportunity and human well-being. We are working to address critical challenges that the world must overcome this decade in order to secure a sustainable future for people and the planet: climate change, energy, food, forests, water, sustainable cities, and the ocean.

Internships at WRI are learning experiences designed for current students, recent graduates, and other candidates who wish to gain knowledge about a specific area of our work. We strive to attract diverse, intellectually driven candidates who have a passion for sustainability and development. WRI provides many internship opportunities throughout the year in all our programs.  

WRI is committed to advancing gender, racial, and social equity for human well-being in our mission and applies this principle to our organizational and programmatic practices.