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Almost two in three people lacking access to clean water survive on less than $2 a day, with one in three living on less than $1 a day.

Water has an economic value in all its competing uses and should be recognized as an economic good. Within this principle, it is vital to recognize first the basic right of all human beings to have access to clean water and sanitation at an affordable price. Past failure to recognize the economic value of water has led to wasteful and environmentally damaging uses of the resource. Managing water as an economic good is an important way of achieving efficient and equitable use, and of encouraging conservation and protection of water resources.

“Around the world, 884 million people do not have access to safe drinking water and 2.5 billion are without adequate sanitation facilities. Every day, nearly 6,000 people who share our planet die from water-related illnesses, and the vast majority are children.” Water problems affect half of humanity

“The human right to water entitles everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses. An adequate amount of safe water is necessary to prevent death from dehydration, reduce the risk of water-related disease and provide for consumption, cooking, personal and domestic hygienic requirements”.

Some 1.1 billion people in developing countries have inadequate access to water, and 2.6 billion lack basic sanitation.

The UN Advisory Board on Water & Sanitation states: "Water is life. Water is also a threat to life. The past decade water-related disasters have not only struck more often, but have been severe. The toll in lives and livelihood has been immense, along with many other damaging short-term and long-term social and economic impacts. Most natural phenomena that cause water-related disasters are predictable. But we urgently need more action to prevent, prepare for, and manage water-related disasters. These actions should take advantage of the knowledge, experience, and capacity that exists within local and traditional communities and organizations".

According to Rotary International: "About 97 percent of the world’s water are oceans -- and saline. More than 2 percent of the rest of the water is frozen in icebergs and glaciers, leaving less than 1 percent of all water available for human use. If it were possible to fit all the water on Earth into a gallon (4 liter) jug, the relative quantity of water available would be about one tablespoon (4 fluid drams). Fresh drinking water and water for food production and waste disposal are essential and increasingly threatened. Population growth and megacities have increased demand six times since the beginning of the 1900’s. Pollution contaminates available supplies. Today, almost half of the world’s countries have severe water problems".

Shelter and safe water

For the 1.9 billion children from the developing world, there are: 640 million without adequate shelter (1 in 3) 400 million with no access to safe water (1 in 5)


  • Since 1950 the world population has doubled but water consumption has increased six-fold.
  • On current trends over the next 20 years humans will use 40% more water than they do now.
  • The number of people living in water-stressed countries is projected to climb from 470 million to three billion by 2025.
  • Only 0.008% of the planet's water is available for human consumption, and is found in lakes, rivers and underground aquifers.
  • At least 90% of drinkable water in the world is underground. This source of water is increasingly threatened with depletion and contamination.
  • 1.1 billion people in the world do not have access to safe water, this is roughly one sixth of the world's population.
  • 2.6 billion people in the world do not have access to adequate sanitation, this is roughly two-fifths of the world's population.
  • 2.2 million people in developing countries, most of them children, die every year from diseases associated with lack of access to safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene.
  • Diarrhea alone kills 1.8 million children under five every year, but most cases can be prevented or treated.
  • The simple act of washing hands with soap and water can reduce diarrhea diseases by over 40%.


According to SIWI (source: http://www.siwi.org) Statistics tell stories, though often there is more to them than meets the eye.

  • Of all water on earth, 97 % is salt water, and of the remaining 3 % fresh water, some 70% is frozen in the polar icecaps. The other 30% is mostly present as soil moisture or lies in underground aquifers.
  • Less than 1% of the world's fresh water is readily accessible for direct human uses.
  • Global water use: Agriculture 70 %, Industry 22 %, Domestic use 8 %.
  • A child born in the developed world consumes 30 to 50 times as much water as one in the developing world.
  • With rapid population growth, water withdrawals have tripled over the last 50 years.
  • An estimated 90% of the 3 billion people who are expected to be added to the population by 2050 will be in developing countries, many in regions already in water stress where the current population does not have sustainable access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation.
  • The 10 largest water users (in volume) are India, China, the United States, Pakistan, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Mexico and the Russian Federation.
  • The world’s water crisis is not related to the physical availability of water, but to unbalanced power relations, poverty and related inequalities.
  • Water scarcity can roughly be divided into two categories: “Apparent” scarcity exists when there is plenty of water, but is inefficiently and wastefully used; “real” scarcity is caused by insuffient rain-fall or large populations depending on a limited resource.
  • About 1.4 billion people, mostly impoverished, live in river basins where all the blue water is already committed or overcommitted.
  • Around 20% of total water used globally is from groundwater sources (renewable or not), and this share is rising rapidly, particularly in dry areas.
  • Water withdrawals are predicted to increase by 50 percent by 2025 in developing countries, and 18 per cent in developed countries.
  • In 2030, 47% of world population will be living in areas of high water stress.
  • By 2075, the number of people in regions with chronic water shortage is estimated to be between 3 and 7 billion.
  • By 2030 the number of urban dwellers is expected to be about 1.8 billion more than in 2005 and to constitute about 60% of the world’s population. As the urban population increases, many major cities have had to draw freshwater from increasingly distant watersheds, as local surface and groundwater sources no longer meet the demand for water, or as they become depleted or polluted.
  • A nation’s water foot print is defined as the total volume of freshwater, both green and blue, that is used to produce the goods and services consumed by the people of the nation, i.e. both food and other goods and services.


  • To ensure our basic needs, we all need 20 to 50 litres of water free from harmful contaminants each and every day.
  • Almost one-tenth of the global disease burden could be prevented by improving water supply, sanitation, hygiene and management of water resources. Such improvements reduce child mortalityand improve health and nutritional status in a sustainable way.
  • At any given time, half of the world's hospital beds are occupied by patients suffering from a water-related disease.
  • Up to 50% of malnutrition is related to repeated diarrhoea or intestinal nematode infections as a result of unclean water, inadequate sanitation or poor hygiene.
  • In 2000, world leaders at the United Nations Millennium Summit committed themselves to attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Goal 7, target 10 addresses the aim to reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water by 2015. In 2002, the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) added another target: to halve by 2015, the proportion of people who do not have access to basic sanitation.
  • 884 million people – about half of whom live in Asia – still rely on drinking water from unimproved sources such as ponds, streams, irrigation canals and unprotected dug wells.
  • 87 per cent of the world’s population - 5.7 billion people - uses drinking water from improved sources. 54 per cent uses a piped connection in their dwelling, plot or yard, and 33 per cent uses other improved drinking water sources such as public taps, standpipes, tube wells or boreholes, protected dug wells, protected springs and rainwater collection.
  • Women are more than twice as likely as men to go and fetch drinking water.
  • In many places of the world, a staggering 30 to 40% of water or more goes unaccounted for due to water leakages in pipes and canals and illegal tapping.
  • Some African countries have been making rapid progress in drinking water coverage. For example, Tanzania was only 38% covered in 1990, and in 2002 was 73% covered; Namibia was 58% covered in 1990, and in 2002 was 80% covered.
  • Current trends suggest that more than 90% of the global population will use improved drinking water sources by 2015.
  • 2.5 billion people are without improved sanitation.
  • Based on current trends, the total population without improved sanitation in 2015 will have decreased only slightly, from 2.5 billion to 2.4 billion.
  • One billion people in rural areas still practise open defecation.
  • More than 5 billion people – 67% of the world population – may still be without access to adequate sanitation in 2030.
  • Sanitation coverage in developing countries (49%) is only half that of the developed world (98%).
  • 1,8 million people die every year from diarrhoeal diseases (including cholera); 90% are children under 5, mostly in developing countries.
  • Improved water supply reduces diarrhoea morbidity by 21%.
  • Improved sanitation reduces diarrhoea morbidity by 37.5%.
  • Hygiene interventions including hygiene education and promotion of hand washing can lead to a reduction of diarrhoeal cases by up to 45%.


  • Almost two in three people lacking access to safe drinking water survive on less than $2 a day and one in three on less than $1 a day. More than 660 million people without adequate sanitation live on less than $2 a day, and more than 385 million on less than $1 a day. This evidence highlights clearly the financing difficulties of improving access through household investment.
  • Every $1 invested in improved water supply and sanitation yields gains of $4-$12.
  • Adequate investments in water management, infrastructure and services can yield a high economic return by avoiding costs related to water pollution, contamination and disasters.
  • In aggregate, the total annual economic benefits of meeting the MDG target on water supply and sanitation accrue to USD 84 billion.
  • Adequate investments in water management, infrastructure and services can yield a high economic return by avoiding costs related to water pollution, contamination and disasters.
  • Corruption in the water sector can raise the investment costs of achieving the Millennium Development Goals target for water and sanitation by almost $50 billion.
  • In some countries corruption increases the cost of connecting a household to a water network by more than 30 percent.
  • Poor people living in the slums often pay 5-10 times more per liter of water than wealthy people living in the same city.
  • The private sector's proportion in the water and sewerage sectors in developing countries is, on average, only 35%, whereas in the developed world it constitutes 80% of the market.


  • Almost two billion people were affected by natural disasters in the last decade of the 20th century, 86% of them by floods and droughts.
  • Droughts cause the most ill-health and death because they often trigger and exacerbate malnutrition and famine, and deny access to adequate water supplies.
  • Between 1980 and 2000, 75 per cent of the world’s total population lived in areas affected by a natural disaster.
  • Flooding increases the ever-present health threat from contamination of drinking-water systems from inadequate sanitation, with industrial waste and by refuse dumps.
  • Globally, the number of great inland flood catastrophes was twice as large per decade between 1996 and 2005 as between 1950 and 1980, and economic losses were five times as great. The dominant drivers of these upward trends are socioeconomic factors, such as population growth, land use change and greater use of vulnerable areas.
  • Climate variability and climate change will likely exacerbate the frequency and shocks of floods and droughts.
  • Current IPCC projections of rising temperatures and sea levels and increased intensity of droughts and storms suggest that substantial population displacements will take place within the next 30-50 years, particularly in coastal zones.
  • A global temperature increase of 3-4°C could cause floods resulting in 330 million climate refugees.


  • There are 263 transboundary river and lake basins and around 300 transboundary aquifers worldwide.
  • Transboundary lake and river basins account for an estimated 60 per cent of global freshwater flow and is home to 40 % of the world´s population.
  • Over 75 percent of all countries, 145 in total, have shared river basins within their boundaries. And 33 nations have over 95 percent of their territory within international river basins.
  • In the 20th century, only seven minor skirmishes took place between nations over shared water resources, while over 300 treaties were signed during the same period of time.
  • 158 of the world’s 263 international river basins, plus transboundary aquifer systems, lack any type of cooperative management framework.
  • By jointly managing a river, riparians can generate ‘public goods’ such as flood and drought protection, increased biodiversity and improved conservation, enhanced water quality, and even greater possibilities for peace and regional stability.


  • Agriculture is the largest consumer of freshwater by far – about 70% of all freshwater withdrawals go to irrigated agriculture.
  • Today, irrigated agriculture covers 275 million hectares – about 20% of cultivated land – and accounts for 40% of global food production.
  • Part of the current pressure on water resources comes from increasing demands for animal feed. Meat production requires 8-10 times more water than cereal production.
  • Producing 1 kg of meat requires as much water as an average domestic household does over 10 months (50l/person/day).
  • 777 million people in developing countries do not have access to sufficient and adequate food.
  • Feeding everyone in 2050 – including the undernourished and additional 3 billion people expected – could require 50 % more water than is needed now.
  • Reducing food wastage by 50% – including post-harvest losses, losses in transport and handling, and losses in the household – might vastly reduce or even negate the need for additional water to grow more food, which will ensure sufficient water is available for food in the future.
  • Based on today’s water productivity and a projected diet of 3000 kcal/day, an additional 5600 km3/year of water needs to be appropriated by 2050 to eradicate undernutrition and feed an additional 3 billion world inhabitants. This is almost three times as much as the present global consumptive water use in irrigation.
  • Globally, irrigation water allocated to biofuel production is estimated at 44 km3, or 2% of all irrigation water. Under current production conditions it takes an average of roughly 2,500 litres of water (about 820 litres of it irrigation water) to produce 1 litre of liquid biofuel (the same amount needed on average to produce food for one person for one day).
  • Irrigation is very important for overall food production by enabling 40% of the production on only 17% of the cropland.
  • Implementing all current national biofuel policies and plans would take 30 million hectares of cropland and 180 km3 of additional irrigation water.
  • As irrigation systems come under pressure to produce more with less water, there is a danger that unequal rights and entitlements will widen inequalities.
  • For some countries, climate change may lead to an increase in food production, as in North America and Europe, where high gains are projected.
  • For the 40 poorest countries, with a total population of some 1–3 billion, climate change may lead them to lose on average up to a fifth of their cereal production potential in the 2080s.
  • As many as 40 % of the Sub-Saharan countries could lose a substantial part of their agricultural production due to climate change.


  • Industry and energy together account for 20% of water demand.
  • Hydropower supplies about 20% of the world’s electricity.
  • As of 2000 there were more than 50,000 large dams in operation.
  • According to the International Energy Agency, electricity generation from hydropower and other renewable energy sources is projected to increase at an average annual rate of 1.7% from 2004 to 2030, for an overall increase of 60% through 2030.
  • Only about 25% of the world's dams are involved in producing hydropower.
  • Hydropower is the most important and widely used renewable source of energy.
  • Industrial water productivity varies greatly across countries and is only partially linked to a country’s level of industrialization. As an example, industrial water productivity is $138 per cubic metre in Denmark and less than $10 per cubic metre in the United States.


  • It is estimated that less than 20% of the world’s drainage basins exhibit nearly pristine water quality.
  • Only five out of 55 rivers in Europe are considered pristine.
  • Of the world’s 292 largest river systems in 2005 (accounting for 60% of the world’s runoff), more than a third (105) were considered to be strongly affected by fragmentation, and 68 moderately affected.
  • Large dams have led to the loss of forests, wildlife habitat and aquatic biodiversity - both upstream and downstream.
  • Every day, 2 million tons of waste is disposed of within receiving waters.
  • On average freshwater species populations were reduced by half between 1970 and 2005, a sharper decline than for other biomes.
  • In developing countries, 70 percent of industrial wastes are dumped untreated into waters where they pollute the usable water supply.





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