Two billion more people have gained access to safe drinking water in the past two decades, according to a new report from the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF, and the World Bank.
The State of the World's Drinking Water details the links between water, health, and development and gives achievable recommendations for governments to implement. It is illustrated by examples of how countries are already contributing to reaching Sustainable Development Goal 6 - the target which includes delivering safely managed drinking water to everyone by 2030.
“Providing greater access to safe drinking water has saved many lives, most of them children,” said Dr Maria Neira, WHO director, department of environment, climate change and health. “We have to accelerate our efforts to ensure every person has reliable access to safe drinking water something that is a human right, not a luxury.”
"We have to accelerate our efforts to ensure every person has reliable access to safe drinking water, something that is a human right, not a luxury."
The report reveals positive progress but details how one-quarter of the world’s population is still without access to safe drinking water as climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of droughts and floods, which can increase water insecurity, disrupt supplies, and devastate communities. Additionally, an increase in populations in urban areas is putting a strain on cities' ability to deliver water to the millions of people living in informal communities and slums.
The report recommends that to achieve universal access to safe drinking water by 2030, governments must invest in building safe drinking water systems by not only increasing funding, but also strengthening capacities to plan, coordinate, and regulate drinking water services. It also suggests that governments and partners increase political commitment and investments.
“No child should be faced with the choice of drinking dirty water – a leading killer of children – or making dangerous journeys to collect water and missing out on school,” said Aidan Cronin, UNICEF interim director of water, sanitation & hygiene (WASH) and climate, environment, energy & disaster risk reduction (CEED). “Accessible and reliable safe drinking water is fundamental to ensuring children are healthy, educated, and thriving.”
"Investing in water and sanitation is critical to health, economic growth and the environment. Healthier children become healthier adults who then contribute more to the economy and society."
"Investing in water and sanitation is critical to health, economic growth and the environment. Healthier children become healthier adults who then contribute more to the economy and society”, said Saroj Kumar Jha, global director, World Bank Group's water global practice.
According to the report, the return on investment in water - in terms of health, productivity and other factors - is estimated at more than three times the cost in urban areas, and more than six times the cost in rural areas. Yet despite this understanding of the huge benefits of providing people with safe drinking water, and the progress made in the last 20 years, an estimated two billion people - one-quarter of the world's population - still go without.
Meeting the Sustainable Development Goal target of universal access to safe drinking water by 2030 will require countries and multilateral organisations to quadruple their investment - a small price to pay for the millions of lives saved, says the report.
- Strengthen existing institutions by filling gaps, facilitating coordination, establishing a regulatory environment supported by legislation and standards for service quality, and ensuring enforcement
- Increase funding from all sources dramatically, with water service providers improving efficiency and performance, and governments providing a stable and transparent administrative, regulatory and policy environment
- Build capacity within the water sector by developing a capable and motivated workforce through a range of capacity-development approaches based on innovation and collaboration
- Ensure relevant data and information are available to better understand inequalities in drinking water services and make evidence-based decisions
- Encourage innovation and experimentation through supportive government policy and regulation, accompanied by rigorous monitoring and evaluation