Clean, accessible water for all is an essential part of the world we want to live in and there is sufficient fresh water on the planet to achieve this. However, due to bad economics or poor infrastructure, millions of people including children die every year from diseases associated with inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene.

To improve sanitation and access to drinking water, there needs to be increased investment in management of freshwater ecosystems and sanitation facilities on a local level in several developing countries within Sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, Southern Asia, Eastern Asia and South-Eastern Asia.

WATERPRIORITIES

Ensure access to water and sanitation for all

Water scarcity, poor water quality and inadequate sanitation negatively impact food security, livelihood choices and educational opportunities for poor families across the world. At the current time, more than 2 billion people are living with the risk of reduced access to freshwater resources and by 2050, at least one in four people is likely to live in a country affected by chronic or recurring shortages of fresh water.

Drought in specific afflicts some of the world’s poorest countries, worsening hunger and malnutrition. Fortunately, there has been great progress made in the past decade regarding drinking sources and sanitation, whereby over 90% of the world’s population now has access to improved sources of drinking water.

Sustainable water resources are essential to human health, environmental sustainability, and economic prosperity. Currently, more than 2 billion people are affected by water stress, which will only increase with population growth and the effects of climate change. Globally, around 1.8 billion people use a source of drinking water that is fecally contaminated. Some 2.4 billion people lack access to basic sanitation services, such as toilets or latrines. Water scarcity affects more than 40% of the global population and is projected to rise. More than 80% of wastewater resulting from human activities is discharged into rivers or seas without any pollution removal.

  • Water and sanitation-related diseases remain among the major causes of death in children under five; more than 800 children die every day from diarrhoeal diseases linked to poor hygiene.
  • In most countries, the burden of collecting water falls mainly on women and girls.
  • In the 34 sub-Saharan African countries with data, less than 20% of the population on average had a facility with soap and water at home in 2015.
  • Northern Africa and many parts of Asia experience water stress levels above 60%, indicating the strong probability of future water scarcity.
  • Agriculture accounts for almost 70% of global water withdrawals, a figure that rises to 95% in some developing countries. This poses a significant challenge for sustainable development, especially since agricultural production is projected to increase significantly to meet global food needs.

A study by the World Bank Group, UNICEF and the World Health Organization estimates that extending basic water and sanitation services to the unserved would cost $28.4 billion per year from 2015 to 2030.

You can get involved in the World Water Day (http://worldwaterday.org/) and World Toilet Day (http://www.un.org/en/events/toiletday/) campaigns that aim to provide information and inspiration to take action on water and hygiene issues. You can also support organizations that invest in water research and development and keep governments accountable.

  1. By 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all
  2. By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations
  3. By 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally
  4. By 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity
  5. By 2030, implement integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate
  6. By 2020, protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes
  7. By 2030, expand international cooperation and capacity-building support to developing countries in water- and sanitation-related activities and programmes, including water harvesting, desalination, water efficiency, wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse technologies
  8. Support and strengthen the participation of local communities in improving water and sanitation management
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•   As a member of society, your active engagement in policy-making ensures that your voice is heard, knowledge is shared, and that critical thinking is encouraged at all ages. Policymakers can help generate job opportunities and fiscal policies that stimulate pro-poor growth and reduce poverty.

•   As a member of the science and academic community, you can help discover sustainable solutions for the challenges of reducing poverty. Thanks to this community, there is now greater access to safe drinking water, reduced deaths caused by water-borne diseases, and improved hygiene to reduce health risks related to unsafe drinking water and lack of sanitation.

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