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20 Things to Know About the Global Water Crisis

Photos logoPhotos 3/12/2019

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The ability to open a tap and enjoy a glass of clean water may seem like a given for most citizens of today's world.  Yet, when you look around the globe, 844 million people lack access to water. That's 1 in 9. And the trickle-down effect of this lack of access to water has serious implications. Let's take a look at the facts you need to know about the world's water crisis. 


Access to Water

  • 844 million people – 1 in 9 – lack access to water.
  • Almost 6x the population of the United States lives without a household water connection.
  • The water crisis is the #5 global risk in terms of impact to society, announced by the World Economic Forum in January 2018.
  • 159 million people depend on surface water, like a river, to meet their basic needs. 


  • 2.3 billion people – 1 in 3 – lack access to a toilet.
  • Globally, 60% of people do not have access to safely-managed sanitation.
  • 892 million people – 12% of the global population – defecate in the open.
  • More people have a mobile phone than a toilet. 

Health Implications 

  • Water, sanitation and hygiene-related disease kills nearly 1 million people each year.
  • Every 2 minutes a child dies from a water-related disease. 
  • 160 million children suffer from stunting and chronic malnutrition linked to water and sanitation.
  • Diarrhea is one of the top 3 leading causes of child death, a majority of which are water-related.
Walking for water © Walking for water

Impact on Women 

  • Women and children bear the primary responsibility for water collection.
  • Women and girls spend 200 million hours every day collecting water. This is time not spent working, caring for family members, or attending school.
  • Women and girls living without a toilet spend 266 million hours every day finding a place to go.
  • Access to improved sanitation leads to a reduction in assault and violence on women and girls. 

Education Implications 

  • Reductions in time spent collecting water increases school attendance, especially for girls.
  • Globally, 1/3 of all schools lack access to basic water and sanitation.
  • Having a sanitation solution at home means children are more likely to have higher cognitive test scores.
  • For every year a girl stays in school, her income can increase by 15-25%. 

Provided by 


Key reports: 

  1. The progress report of the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP) is produced every two years. 
  2. Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water (GLAAS) is produced every two years by the World Health Organization (WHO)
  3.  UN-Water produced the SDG 6 Synthesis Report 2018 on Water and Sanitation. This represents a joint position from the UN family on the global status on SDG 6 targets.
  4. UNESCO World Water Development Report is an annual and thematic report that focuses on different strategic water issues each year. 
  5. The Global Water Security & Sanitation Partnership (GWSP) produced the Water Knowledge Highlights which is a selection of reports, case studies and toolkits produced during 2016-2018.
  6. OECD Key trends and figures report of financing water and sanitation services in developing countries - official finance and private finance.
  7. position paper, “Financing WASH: how to increase funds for the sector while reducing inequities: Position paper for the Sanitation and Water for All Finance Ministers Meeting, April 20, 2017” 

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