United Nations Department of Public Information, 2002
About the factsheet
Water is essential for life – to drink, bathe, cook, clean, grow food, fuel engines, support ecosystems. But water is not easily accessible to all. For some of the poorest people in the world, a drink or a pot of soup means getting up before dawn and walking, often for miles, to fetch a bucket of water. Over one billion people share that plight. Without ready access to safe water, the poor – especially women and girls – spend much of their time scavenging for it. In some places water scarcity is accompanied by deteriorated water quality due to pollution and environmental degradation. Poor water supply and sanitation lead to high rates of water-related diseases, limited economic development options and political and civil tension. In short, without water, growth is stunted.
There is a strong and increasing recognition of the crucial role of water in sustainable development, but meeting competing demands will require coordinated action and considerable funding. To respond to needs, governments, international organizations, local communities, civil society and businesses around the world are working on innovative projects that prove that these obstacles can be overcome. The challenge is often how to generate the funding and know-how, with the right combination of outside support and local participation, to bring these efforts to scale. In addition to providing policy guidelines, technical advice and a forum for sharing lessons learned, the United Nations is a key partner in many of these projects. Following is some of the action on the ground.