Access to water

Water resources are unevenly distributed across the world

Water is the most essential element to life and debates are endless on every of its dimension, from the way it is consumed, governed or managed to the very sensitive questions of water access and water usage related conflicts.

Our planet’s water resources are limited. Fresh water comprises 2.8% of the global water volume, and 70% of this fresh water is stored in a solid state; the rest can be found in water tables and underground basins as groundwater, or in lakes, rivers and natural basins (0.3% of available resources). In the end, less than 1% of the Earth’s total water – or 0.028% of the hydrosphere – is accessible for direct human use.

Moreover, resources are unevenly distributed amongst countries. A third of the global population is deprived of potable water. 1.1 billion people across 80 countries do not have access to safe water, severely hindering the development potential of these countries. In Cambodia, Chad, Ethiopia, Mauritania, Afghanistan and Oman, less than 40% of the population have access to drinking water. Likewise, countries such as Kuwait, Bahrein, United Arab Emirates, Malta, Libya, Singapore, Jordania, Israel and Cyprus suffer from acute resource scarcity.

(Source: CIEau)


Access to water: a catalyst for progress and human development

Water is a powerful driver for human development and is key to any form of social organization. Without access to potable water, no economic development is viable. Furthermore, access to health, education and autonomy of women all dramatically depend on safe water access. In sum, improved drinking water is a universal tool for poverty alleviation and access to essential services hence represents a priority for fostering development in emerging countries. In the context of alarming climate change, it must be granted an even higher level of priority on the international development agenda.


No universal water access without strong international political will

The international community committed to promote access to water and sanitation services through the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs), which promised to cut by half the share of global population that currently does not benefit from physically accessible sources of improved drinking water. This international commitment set the first milestone towards new, essential rights for populations on their pathway towards economic growth and an environmentally sustainable mode of development. Most of these targets were not reached, nonetheless access to water improved considerably, in particular in rural areas. Still, an estimated 3 to 4 billion individuals – almost half of humanity – remains deprived of access to safe water. The Sustainable Development Goals that replaced the Millenium Development Goals in September 2015 will obviously need to pursue efforts previously made on this ground. The new 2015-2030 roadmap is far more ambitious than the previous one was and targets simultaneously developed and developing countries. One of the main goals is specifically dedicated to water and sanitation. 





  • Nearly 800 million people do not have access to an improved water source and almost a third of the world population drinks water that endangers their health.
  • 4,400 Children (1.8 million per year) die every day from dirty water or poor sanitation.
  • 2.5 billion people lack basic sanitation facilities.
  • 800 million people are undernourished.
  • The costs resulting from the lack of access to safe water amounted to $170 billion, or 2.6 per cent of GDP in developing countries.
  •  It is estimated that 443 million school days are lost every year as a result of this problem.
  • The average consumption of an American is 600 liters of water / day , 150 liters / day for a European against 10 liters / day for an African.
  • The water crisis is the #1 global risk based on impact to society (as a measure of devastation), as announced by the World Economic Forum in January 2015. 
  • Over 8 out of 10 people who do not use an improved source of drinking–water live in rural areas.


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Access to water