“The SDG on water creates a ripple effect across the other SDGs with clear linkages to inequalities, infant mortality, school enrolment, food, energy, poverty reduction, health and environmental sustainability.”
“There is enough water to meet the world’s growing needs, but not without dramatically changing the way it is used, managed and shared.”
Water is life. It is essential to all life on the planet and to all aspects of sustainable development. From food and energy security to human and environmental health, water contributes to improvements in social well-being and inclusive growth, affecting the livelihoods of billions.
Fifteen years ago, the international community committed to halving the proportion of people without access to clean water and basic sanitation. The water goal was met 5 years ahead of schedule, a major achievement for countries and the international community, but 800 million people still lack access around the world and 1.8 million only have access to faecally contaminated water sources. Less encouraging, the target for sanitation was missed by nearly 700 million people and today 2.5 billion – or 1 out of every 3 people – are still without access to improved sanitation facilities including 946 million people who defecate in the open. Despite the progress made, around 1000 children still die each day from diarrhoea caused by inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene.
Meeting the water and sanitation targets is more than a health and dignity issue. The evidence is compelling that achieving the water and sanitation goals would trigger a major leap forward in human development. A UNDP study found that access to water and sanitation had the greatest impact on a country’s global rating on human development, more than energy access or spending on education and health care.
This is particularly true for women and girls in developing countries who spend up to 25% of their day collecting water, time which could be much better spent in school or on paid work. Women and girls are also the primary caregivers when family members are sick from waterborne diseases and many drop out of school once they reach puberty if they don’t have access to toilets.
Governments have agreed that more action is needed and have dedicated a new goal, Sustainable Development Goal 6, to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. Tackling this goal will create a ripple effect across the other SDGs with clear linkages to addressing inequalities, infant mortality, school enrolment, food supply, energy production, poverty reduction, health and environmental sustainability among others.
This new SDG on water goes beyond the provision of access to water and sanitation. It also looks at the bigger picture in terms of the way water is managed, reducing pollution, protecting ecosystems that supply our water, and more. Today over 1.7 billion people live in river basins where water use exceeds recharge. The crisis in water and sanitation overwhelmingly affects the poor. Availability of water is certainly a concern for some countries. But the global water and sanitation crisis is mainly rooted in poverty, power and inequality, not in physical availability. It is, first and foremost, a crisis of governance and thus governance reform must be a key pillar of any strategy to addressing the crisis. The fact is there is enough water to meet the world’s growing needs, but not without dramatically changing the way water is used, managed and shared.
Here are some key facts:
- 1.7 billion people live in river basins where water use exceeds recharge
- Up to 10% of GDP is lost in very poor countries due to inadequate water and sanitation.
- In sub-Saharan Africa, women and girls spend 40 billion hours a year collecting water– the equivalent of a year’s worth of labour by the entire workforce in France
- Water insecurity is a drag on global economic development in the order of US $500 billion annually
- The benefits of achieving universal access to sanitation are estimated to outweigh the costs by a factor of 5.5 to 1, whereas for universal access to drinking water the ratio is estimated at 2 to 1.
Through programmes like MDG GoAL-WaSH, CapNet, the Community Water Initiative, Every Drop Matters, Gender and Water, Human Rights Based Approach, and others, UNDP promotes and facilitates equitable access to Water and Sanitation services as a fundamental contribution to enhancing human development.
This year’s World Water Day has been all about the connection of water and sustainable development. It remembered that water is one of our most precious resources. Water is Life. Let’s preserve it!