Addressing the global water challenge


According to the United Nations, around 1.8 billion people globally use contaminated sources of drinking water and around 2.4 billion people lack access to basic sanitation services, such as toilets or latrines. Water scarcity affects more than 40 per cent of the global population and is projected to rise. This is a major hurdle for the development of people and nations and violates the basic human right to water and sanitation and has therefore identified as one of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (Goal 6: Ensure access to water and sanitation for all)

Water is essential to health and social and economic development

  • Over 5,000 children die each day due to dirty water or poor hygiene
  • Half of the world's hospital beds are occupied by patients suffering water borne diseases
  • Water-related diseases kill one child every 15 seconds
  • 1 Dollar invested in water/sanitation returns in 8 Dollars of economic growth

Floods and other water-related disasters account for 70 per cent of all deaths related to natural disasters

UN Sustainable Development Goals

Water is essential to feed the world

  • 70% of the world's water resources are needed for food production!
  • Producing food for the increasing world population will require 50% more freshwater
  • Increasing competition for water and inefficient irrigation practices could constrain future food production
  • In many developing nations, irrigation accounts for over 90% of the water withdrawn. Therefore, more water-efficient irrigation technologies need to be applied.
  • The cup of coffee you may drink while reading this page required 140 litres of water. 15.500 litres of water is needed to produce one kg of beef

Each day, nearly 1,000 children die due to preventable water and sanitation-related diarrhoeal diseases

UN Sustainable Development Goals

Water is essential for agriculture and industry

  • Water is used to make every product on Earth. Therefore, all businesses and all business sectors depend on it in some way.
  • After agriculture, industry is the second largest user of water. However, the amount of water used varies widely from one type of industry to another
  • Water, energy and food are intrinsically linked: water is needed to produce energy, energy is needed to deliver the water needed for food production.


WBCSD's water trends and facts
UN water fact sheets "Climate Change" and "Water Quality".


(1) Kyle Onda, Joe LoBuglio and Jamie Bartram, Global Access to Safe Water: Accounting for Water Quality and the Resulting Impact on MDG Progress, Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2012

Approximately 70 per cent of all water abstracted from rivers, lakes and aquifers is used for irrigation

UN Sustainable Development Goals